Dogs made my Popogirl, Design by Susie Curry
I drew and drew my entire childhood, with an interest primarily in animals and nature.
After spending my 20's going to college and working retail jobs...
After spending my 20's going to college and working retail jobs...
The early-mid 90's
In August 1992, I began volunteering for our local Humane Society (and doing Australian Cattle Dog Rescue). Around the same time I also began a self guided intensive study of animal and stinging insect behavior, influenced greatly by Jane Goodall, Hugo Van Lawick, Desmond Morris, Mary Twelveponies and many other authors.
During the holidays, worked at the humane society's gift shop at Arborland mall. I especially admired the whimsical handmade cat jewelry by local artist Nancy Diamond- they were made from Friendly Plastic and were so cute.
Inspired, I bought some FP at a craft store and got busy. It was a difficult material to work with but after a while, I figured it out and got my line of horses, cats and wild animals done and was selling them at the Ann Arbor Farmers and Artists Market.
In the summers of 1993 and 1994, I sold them at the Humane Society's booth in the middle of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
In fall 1994, at the market, a customer asked me to do a Border Collie. This exploded into a world of dogs for me. I studied standards, designed nearly every breed and got a booth at the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Show the next March, in 1995. My dog designs took off (and I started showing dogs, as a side note!).
For many years, my dog pins and earrings were shipped around the world, primarily from word of mouth of customers at dog shows. I sold them at the shows myself and through other vendors all over the country- from Cow Palace in San Francisco to Westminster in New York City. In cities like Cleveland, OH, Houston, TX, Orlando, FL and Toronto, Ontario, Canada- Yes, they became very well known!
In 1996 I began to have bad tendonitis in my right wrist from the repetitive cutting of the tough polypropylene (what FP is made of). I tried alternative medicine, which worked wonderfully.
The late 90's
In 1997, at a cat show (I showed Abyssinians for a couple of years) I bought a colorful ceramic cat pin that I was fascinated by. It strikes me now that this may have been the hint of things to come!
In 1998, the tendonitis came back. I tried conventional western medicine, which didn't help at all. I decided in November 1998 to quit using the FP and find some other way to make money with my art.
In 1999, with what was left of my FP stock, at the Detroit Kennel Club show, I was set up next to ceramic artist Karen Fincannon. I was enthralled with her whimsical animal tiles and talked to her all weekend.
That same year I designed a whole line of T-shirt designs of dog breeds and puppy versions of the dog breeds (all animation character style dogs), bought T-shirt stock and an expensive press and tried to sell them through my vendors. My heart was really not in this sort of factory-like production. It did not feel like I was making real market art. The press was sold and my artwork is stored on a disc, waiting to be put on something, someday.
I was still inspired to learn how to make ceramic tiles with my own designs so I bought a book Karen had recommended by the artist and professor, Frank Giorgini. I had learned ceramic basics in college from Leone Weber at Central Michigan University. Mr. Giorgini was very helpful via email.
In late 1999, I bought some clay at a supplier and started hand-building some tiles and started learning how to make molds from plaster. I started designing some dog breeds, learning along the way the various natures of several different kinds of ceramic clay.
All throughout the 90's I did ACD Rescue, each dog kept here per our group's ethics outline, for at least 2 months for retraining as house dogs and not rescue-stashed in a kennel building. Each day these rejected shelter dogs taught me how to be a better trainer.
I also experienced horse ownership 2 times with a mean but usually cooperative rescued Morgan cross mare and a sweet, old rescued Morgan gelding.
A class in spring 2000 by Karim Motawi (of Motawi Tile, owned by his sister, herself trained at Pewabic Tile in Detroit) at the Ann Arbor art center helped me figure out the finer points in mold making for tiles.
In August 2001 I bought my first kiln and made my first tiles and dog jewelry!
In March 2002 I did the Detroit Kennel Club show with them and, even with the slow economy I sold enough to give me positive motivation to continue.
It didn't take long for me to bring home my first bag of porcelain clay. I experimented every which way with this clay until I understood exactly how to do what I needed it to do. This learning on my own went on for at least one frustrating year but, finally, something came out that I liked.
I love the feel and texture of porcelain and how it fires. The little sparkles from its glass-like vitrification. How it was weatherproof, even in winter. The way my glazes looked on it.
One day I discovered a bag under my worktable that was well over a year old. It was covered in green mold inside the bag! I took some out and the smell nearly knocked me over. However, it was amazingly plastic and smooth and even better than brand new porcelain from the supplier. The organic material just burned out in the kiln. The results were wonderful! It was after this that I started aging my own clay under my worktable, on purpose.
In 2006, my porcelain dog jewelry won a Pinnacle Award from the prestigious pet trade magazine Pet Age. It has appeared in many magazines such as The Bark and Equus.
In 2001 I bought my 3rd horse, a happy dog-like Norwegian Fjord Horse. I trained him myself with natural behavior-based training methods and sold him to pay off my old student loans in 2004.
In 2004, I also stopped doing rescue.
From 2008-2010 I started and ran the only Michigan owned and operated animal acting company. We worked on almost every film made in Michigan during the short-lived film incentive.
I now sell on the "handmade" site etsy.com and I enjoy making my small porcelain mosaic tiles and original animal tiles/jewelry much more than those big tiles I started with.
I especially enjoy seeing what my customers make with my tiles! Want to see more? 'Like' my page on Facebook:
POPOGIRL on FACEBOOK
Popogirl has become a top etsy shop in the ceramic category, according to the site CRAFT COUNT.
I've been tempted along the way to purchase mechanical means to shortcut my work but I still make my mosaic tiles and jewelry 100% with hand tools (other than my kilns). This gives my work unique glaze and clay characteristics that are to be expected.
My work is all mine, made by me in my home studio. No helpers, no machines.
My supplies are made in PA, CA, IN, NM, WA and Michigan.
I have also been active in introducing rare dog breeds to America in the show world, starting the Wirehaired Medio Portuguese Podengo in 1997, (helping the) Berger Picard in 2007 and starting the Kromfohrlander in 2012.
Click Jenji, the cute Kromfohrlander to visit our breed website!