Glazed and Extruded: The Evolution of a Dynamic Career in Ceramics

March 22, 2022
Alumni Kaiser Suidan glazing a ceramic work in a studio

When you walk into Next Step Studio & Gallery for the first time, it’s immediately evident that it is operated with an extreme sense of pride – from the meticulous curation of work, to the alluring gardens – there is intention behind every detail of this important community space owned and operated by CCS alumnus Kaiser Suidan. And this sense of pride is a shining example that this successful career as an entrepreneur and ceramicist didn’t happen overnight. 

Kaiser Suidan (‘93, Craft & Material Studies), owner of Next Step Studio & Gallery and internationally acclaimed ceramicist, has 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, eventually, earning a full scholarship to CCS where he created award-winning work, graduated with honors and was discovered during his final Student Exhibition Opening by CCS Trustee and President of ArtSpace, Lois Cohn.

Cohn remembers seeing his work for the first time, “Kaiser’s talent was obvious at first glance.  His ability to take a humble material such as clay and create a magical object is unique. Kaiser’s works are a lasting tribute to his many talents –his combination of clay, design and color,  reflect his unique ability to create beautiful and timeless works.”

Join us as we walk through Suidan’s illustrious career…

How did you get to this point in your career – owner of a major studio and gallery, exhibiting your work all over the country?

I started working with clay in eighth grade, and I fell in love with it in high school. I set up a studio in my garage in high school, too. I didn’t come to CCS as soon as I graduated high school. I worked for a few years, put together a portfolio, applied, and got in. The opportunity to go to CCS was something that I’d never thought I’d be able to do or afford. Going there was one of the best things I’ve done. Now, I’m working on a scholarship fund in my name.

How did you come to owning your own business?

I was renting a space with two other artists for about 10 years, and I was just driving around and saw this building [Next Step Studio & Gallery] and my heart dropped. I had to have it. It was just a garage then, so the entire place has been renovated. 

What is it like running a gallery?

It’s a lot of work. You have to set up, make sure that the work is represented correctly, make sure that the walls are painted, make sure that you don’t have too much work out. Every gallery is different, so sometimes you’ll go in and it’s a mix of things—you can’t see anything that way, so the work here fits my aesthetic. Some advice I’d give to someone aspiring to open a gallery would be to realize how expensive rent can be, and that you learn as you go as well as make mistakes along the way.

Can you talk about a project that helped catapult your career?

I did a big job for Mercedes-Benz. I was up against five other artists, and we all wrote proposals and they chose mine. The CEO wanted something for their headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and I was allowed total creative freedom. It was huge, the installation had 200 pieces. I don’t push the commission thing, but if it’s worth it, I’ll do it.

Have you mentored any promising artists?

That’s why I call the studio “Next Step Studio & Gallery” instead of my first and last name because everyone has their first step in whatever they want to do. I’ve even taken a few CCS students under my wing and promoted their careers here. There was one student that I took in as soon as he graduated, and I sold a ton of his work—I even took him to national shows in Chicago. I took in people that I thought deserved an audience. I’ve also taught at CCS and at the Birmingham Art Association. 

Any advice for students thinking about becoming art practitioners?

Stick with your passion. That might be too general, but it’s kind of true. Whether you’re a writer or a musician, you have to give 200%. The entire time I was at CCS, I didn’t have a life. I was in class all day, waiting tables and doing art fairs. It all comes down to determination