Glazed and extruded: the evolution of a dynamic career in ceramics
Kaiser Suidan (’93, Craft & Material Studies), owner of Next Step Studio and Gallery and internationally renowned ceramic artist, celebrated a long and successful career as an entrepreneur, studio artist, instructor and mentor. His journey began early, experimenting with clay at a young age and ultimately earning a full scholarship to CCS where he created award-winning work, graduated with honors and was discovered at his last exhibition opening. student by CCS Trustee and president of ArtSpace, Loïs Cohn.
Cohn remembers seeing his work for the first time: “Kaiser’s talent was evident at first glance. Her ability to take a humble material like clay and create a magical item is unique. Kaiser’s works are an enduring tribute to his many talents – his combination of clay, design and color reflects his unique ability to create beautiful and timeless works.
Join us as we journey through Suidan’s illustrious career…
How did you get to this point in your career – owning a big studio and gallery, exhibiting your work across the country?
I started working with clay in eighth grade and fell in love with it in high school. I also set up a studio in my garage in high school. I didn’t come to CCS as soon as I graduated from high school. I worked for a few years, put together a portfolio, applied, and was admitted. The opportunity to go to CCS was something I never thought I could do or afford. Going there was one of the best things I’ve done. Now I work on a scholarship fund in my name.
How did you come to own your own business?
I had been renting space with two other artists for about 10 years, and I was just driving and saw this building [Next Step Studio & Gallery] and my heart sank. I had to have it. It was just a garage then, so the whole place has been renovated.
What does managing a gallery look like?
It’s a lot of work. You have to settle in, make sure the work is represented correctly, make sure the walls are painted, make sure you don’t have too much work. Every gallery is different, so sometimes you walk in and it’s a mix of things – you can’t see anything that way, so the work here fits my aesthetic. One piece of advice I would give to someone aspiring to open a gallery would be to realize how expensive rent can be, and that you learn as you make mistakes along the way.
Can you tell us about a project that propelled your career?
I did a lot of work for Mercedes-Benz. I was against five other artists, and we all wrote proposals and they chose mine. The CEO wanted something for his headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and I was given complete creative freedom. It was huge, the installation had 200 rooms. I don’t push the commission thing, but if it’s worth it, I will.
Have you sponsored promising artists?
That’s why I call the studio “Next Step Studio & Gallery” instead of my first and last name because everyone takes their first step in what they want to do. I even took a few CCS students under my wing and promoted their careers here. There was a student I hosted as soon as he graduated, and I sold a ton of his work – even took him to national shows in Chicago. I hosted people who I thought deserved an audience. I have also taught at CCS and the Birmingham Art Association.
Any advice for students considering becoming art practitioners?
Stay with your passion. It may be too general, but it is somewhat true. Whether you’re a writer or a musician, you have to give 200%. The whole time I was at CCS, I had no life. I was in class all day, serving tables and doing art fairs. It’s all about determination