Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Suzanne Allen, and along with my husband Paul, we are Tinder and Bloom. We moved to Ohio seven years ago after living in Santa Fe where I worked in several craft and art galleries. While there, we built our own hot glass studio. I also did lampwork glass, making beads for a few years.
We have two children who are growing up way too fast! I hold a bachelor in fine arts with a concentration in fibers from Southern Illinois University. Paul also studied fine arts focusing on glass blowing and blacksmithing. I do most of the creating (design, assembly, R&D) and Paul does much of the support, which includes fashioning one-of-a-kind metal leather working tools for me.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Currently I’m a full-time student studying cardiac sonography, so I spend a considerable amount of time studying physics, anatomy, and imaging of the human heart. I love anatomy and especially the heart — it’s such a dynamic organ. I consider sonography a craft actually, as it’s completely dependent on your hand skills to capture the perfect image.
To lighten the load, I like to goof around and be silly with my two beautiful children, eating my husband’s fantastic meals. We also like to get out into the woods and go hiking when we have the time.
What would be the title of your memoir?
What Was I Thinking? It has a double meaning because I can be somewhat absent-minded and also I always seem to be doing way too many projects at once.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Mostly from the natural world. I find inspiration in the textures and colors of plants and rocks, the colors in a sunset, and the patterns in the branches of various trees. I’m inspired by the medium with which I’m working. I love learning about a material and exploiting its unique characteristics, then showcasing something new.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means bringing an idea forth from mind, heart and hands. To me, this means developing a relationship with the materials and tools. If the tools don’t exist, then we make those too! Handmade means consistently producing tried and true designs, but it also entails taking the time to develop something fresh. Each handmade object is unique and precious, truly a gift.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
I would have to say my parents — not necessarily because they encouraged my artistic endeavors but because of the values they instilled in me: attention to detail, persistence and a critical eye.
I learned many of these values when my mother taught me to crochet as a child. I admired her hand skills more than anything; she was not only a master crocheter but she also could catch flies with her hands and in seconds, peel apples using a paring knife without breaking the peel. She could use that paring knife better than any chef.
My mother told me stories of her childhood growing up in the mountains of central Anatolia (Turkey) on an apple farm. Hearing her wild tales of crying peacocks, sleeping snakes, ominous owls, and delicious apples influenced my choice of subject matter. Also, growing up with all the beautiful Turkish rugs and textiles influenced my sense of design.
My father taught me to be patient and not to judge so quickly. This trait helps me a lot with my work — if a piece or design is not working the way I think it should, I’m able to give it more time and effort until the project turns from a dud into a real winner.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I wanted to be an artist as soon as I realized I could create There was no choice about it. As a child I was always on the hunt for a sheet of blank white paper to fill in.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process usually stems from wanting to solve a question I have about a material, a design or even a need I may have.
I’m usually trying to push the established envelope. I’ll try a new technique which is not usually considered to be of the vernacular of my current medium. I start many versions or solutions then zero in on the solution that works best aesthetically and functionally. I love making beautiful objects that serve a functional purpose in our everyday lives. I guess it’s my pragmatic blue collar background that wants everything to have some practical use and the artist in me that wants it to be beautiful!
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Leonardo da Vinci. I’m in awe of the range of areas he was able to delve into, from the mechanical physical world to the intimate levels of our humanity. He wasn’t satisfied just drawing the human figure — he needed to know how we are constructed to capture the essence of the human figure.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Crocheted pieces my mother and her sister made. Also the handmade Turkish rugs I have that have been in the family.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
With my husband and children in a cozy house near the woods and a clean creek, with some crying peacocks, ominous owls and sleeping snakes!