Denise Soultanian

San Jose, California
| 366 Sales | 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

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Denise Soultanian

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Denise Soultanian


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About DMSPottery

Sales 366
On Etsy since 2014

I was featured in an article in the February 2022 newsletter for the local bonsai club call Midori. Here's the interview!


Tung Dao: Denise, thanks for taking your time to do this feature with Midori Bonsai. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started making bonsai pots?

Denise Soultanian: I was selling my pottery at my friend’s plant show about a year and a half ago. I brought all my pottery that would work for plants, like planters and cover pots, and also pottery that you might use in your kitchen, such as mugs and plates. A friend walked by my booth and saw a ramen bowl that he really liked. He looked at it and said, “Wow, this glaze would be great for a bonsai pot!” He bought the ramen bowl, and I asked him lots of questions about bonsai.

TD: From ramen bowls to bonsai pots—what a large step! Now that you’re making more bonsai pots, what do you like about bonsai pots, or about making them?

DS: Making bonsai pots is super interesting for me, from the collaborative aspect to the production of the pots.

First, I love that there is a collaborative process to bonsai. A pot is made by one person and then the vision of the pot and tree ensemble is completed by another person. I feel honored that someone would take something that I’ve created and incorporate it into their work. That is amazing. And the bonsai I have seen are so incredibly beautiful.

Second, if you have ever worked with clay, you might know that it can feel great in your hands and creating with it is both exciting and meditative. When I make pots, I never know exactly how they’ll turn out, and I love to let them develop during the process. I start by throwing the pot on the wheel, where it begins to develop a loose personality. At the leather hard stage, I trim away extra clay to define the shape and add details. These detail lines or angle of the feet give the pot further character. When the pot is glazed and comes out of the kiln, it really has its own identity. This process is amazing and can be unpredictable.

TD: A pot really does develop character as it ages, just like a bonsai tree, doesn’t it? Both go through a radical transformation in the hands of the artist—from start to something ready for show. I say that because a tree is only finished if it dies! One could say that the journey of a pot is not finished once it’s out of the kiln; it goes on to take on a life as a pair to many trees. Tell us, what type of experience do you have in the arts and, specifically, pottery making?

DS: I’ve always been interested in art, especially any kind that involves using natural materials. I studied art in college at Carnegie Mellon. While there I focused on drawing and painting. For years after-wards I continued creating 2-D art as well as teaching a variety of art classes. It took me some experimentation and the serendipitous recommendation of a friend for me to find ceramics in 2017. Once I did, I was hooked. My kids were young at the time, and I signed them up for ceramics so that we could all experience it together. About 6 months after joining Blossom Hill Crafts in Los Gatos, I began teaching a regular class there for teens. Recently, I also be-came a member of Higher Fire and have taught there as well. The curriculum for one of my classes included a lesson on making bonsai pots!

TD: I totally agree that an interdisciplinary take on the arts is so important to mastering your own art. I went to a summer arts program many years ago as a pianist, and they had us musicians dance, the dancers would be drawing, artists would make music. The other fields of study strengthen and enhance skills in your own art in unexpected ways. I want to close out with this question: What type of bonsai pots are you interested in making right now and how are you pushing the boundaries of pot making?

DS: I love both the unglazed and glazed pots. My work is fired in reduction in a gas kiln, which is especially good for bringing out iron spots in clay and creating a warm rusty look to the pots. My unglazed pots are brushed with iron oxide which is then sponged o of the surface. The heavier rusty wash sits in the texture to give the pot more definition and character.

For the glazed pots, I’m a big experimenter. I guess you might say that I’m a risky glazer. Whenever you overlap a glaze, or put it on the pot heavier than is recommended, you run the risk of having the glaze run o of your pot and fusing it to whatever is underneath. I learned from one of my teachers to make a drip plate to place under my work. I have unintentionally fused those plates to many pieces! By doing this, though, it prevents the glaze from sticking to the more valuable kiln shelf.

When you take chances with glazing, you also have the chance of beautiful drips, unexpected colors, and a spontaneous look. I like when the lines of the pot are clean and crisp and the glaze catches your eye in a special, unpredictable and even subtle way.

Right now I’m experimenting with different styles of feet, and am working on hand building rectangles. I haven’t figured out yet if I’d like to make press molds like many traditional Japanese potters do, or if I’d like to build my pots all by hand. I’ll need to experiment to see what works. Each potter’s hands move a little dier-ently and that’s what makes each potter’s pots unique.

TD: Denise, thank you so much for your time. I hope to see you at one of our bonsai club meetings with your pots! We would love to see them.DS: Thank you, Tung. Please let me know if you or your group have any questions!

Denise is currently teaching ceramics at Blossom Hill Crafts in Los Gatos and is a member and teacher at Higher Fire in San Jose. She lives in San Jose, and by appointment, can show you her pots in person. Images provided by Denise Soultanian.

Here’s where you can find Denise’s work:
She has an Instagram @denisesoultanian, a good place to see her current work and be notified of Etsy shop updates. Her Etsy shop is called DMSPottery. She sells her work on Facebook’s 99 Cent Bonsai page and has a Facebook page called DMS Pottery Bonsai. If you purchase pots through Etsy or 99 Cent Bonsai on Face-book and can pick up, then there is no shipping cost

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  • Denise Soultanian

    Owner, Maker

    I am a potter and pottery instructor. I love being part of the local ceramics community. Most of my work starts in my backyard shed and then migrates to the studios for firing and glazing. I love spontaneity and nature!

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Last updated on May 9, 2022
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