Pet Portraits on Pottery by Susan Altenau | Outlaw Kritters Gifts & Jewelry for Dog, Cat & Animal lovers.
January 12, 2016


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Pet Portraits on Pottery by Susan Altenau


After a very busy holiday season we are back with our interview series on how animals inspire art.

This week’s featured artist, Susan Altenau, comes to us from Cincinnati, OH. Her passion is to create decorative and functional pottery. Her Etsy shop is filled with brightly colored decorative animal works, ranging from coffee mugs, to pet urns, olive oil dispensers, casserole dishes and tiles. She also creates amazing pet portraits on pottery. Have a look then let us know your favorite piece below in the comments.


Fox Tile by Susan Altenau

How long have you been creating art?

I graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and so have been drawing and painting 30 plus years, but the pottery, probably for the last 25 years-give or take. 

I fell into doing animals, both graphic and more detailed illustrations by accident. It started with another pottery studio I worked for and the proprietor asking me if I could draw some simple cats on a plate. That was 10 years ago and I've definitely stepped up my game. I do love my more detailed portraits. There is something peaceful about taking the time they require, just settling into the process. The challenge is that I'm doing this with glaze, which you can't see fully until it's fired. Sometimes because of this, I end up firing a piece twice if the glaze isn't thick enough or I don't think it looks exactly right. I've improved in my application, but there is a surprise every time you open that kiln. 


Dog portrait progression by Susan Altenau

What is your favorite piece of artwork you’ve created and why?

My Bernese Mountain dog. I love the brush and how I handled what is always a challenge, and that is an all black dog. In this case I used a brush, which caused the black glaze to thin out and I made sure to allow for some of the white clay to show through. I love the happy expression on this one. 
Bernese Mountain Dog by Susan Altenau

I love a lot of my cat portraits too. This one with it's graphic markings.

Cat portrait by Susan Altenau

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Easy, a cat, they do what they want, know they'll be taken care of and sleep and lay in the sun most of the day. Is my exhaustion from the intense holiday season showing? 

Black Cat mug by Susan Altenau

What are your favorite animal inspired movies, books or songs?

Babe is a good movie. I love books that have dogs as a pet in the story, not a character - like "Watership Down", although I do remember loving that book; just as a part of the story.


Dog Portrait by Susan Altenau

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Well now, I'm an artist, visually stimulated and motivated, so, my favorites are illustrators. Love Arthur Rackham, darkly beautiful renderings. Love Beatrix Potter's drawings and love the sweetness of Makoto Muramatsu's cats.


What charities or animal welfare groups are you involved with?

I get a lot of requests from shelters and rescues all over the country and locally. I make and ship pottery for them to auction off. 

Badger mug by Susan Altenau

What words describes your feelings toward animals?

Companion, loyalty, and unconditional love - pretty much what anyone who loves their pets would say about them. 

 Dog urn by Susan Altenau


You can find more of Susan's work at her Etsy Shop.

Follow her on Instagram: susan.altenau.pottery

Visit her on Facebook


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