Soozie works primarily in ceramics these days, terra cotta exclusively--she’s very passionate about red clay--and printmaking in mostly wood cut and monoprint wood cut combo. She has been at RWS for seven or eight years. Right now she’s working on a series of plates inspired by a praxinoscope, a toy with images drawn on the inside of a drum, at the center of which is a ring of mirrors. When spun, the reflected images come to life (imagine a dancing skeleton). Watch the video below for an example of one of Soozie's plates. This playfulness is thematic in all her work, often involving stripes, animals, or nursery rhymes. She's inspired by other ceramic artists and printmakers as well as things she picks up off the street and things like manhole covers, building textures, and patterns she sees in the world around her. When she went to Venice with some friends for the Biennale art exhibit one year she was captivated by the wacky doorbells and mailboxes that look like faces on the side of ancient buildings. She has an appreciation for the things that feel odd in the everyday. Soozie is not a huge fan of shiny ceramics and makes her own low-shine colors for that reason, although the interiors are glazed to make them waterproof and food safe. She produces this finish by a process called terra sigillata ‘sealed earth', a technique used in ancient Rome that seals earthenware to make it water resistant. The process involves taking white clay body and adding sodium silica and a bit of stain. "You paint many layers on and burnish the hell out of it. And if you're lucky it gets this nice sheen. It gives a softer look. Less ceramic ceramic.”
All of her work is handmade. Soozie doesn’t throw pots because “it’s too hard,” she says. Terra sigillata is a low-fire process--you can’t get the colors in high fire--which makes it good for terra cotta. "The terra sigillata terra cotta and hand built-ness is a great trifecta.” For her the process is economical and playful; she uses every little bit of clay. Right now she’s big into vases, vases with a wide rim so that you can grab a bunch of flowers and throw them in. Soozie makes art because she has to. She can’t do anything else, she says. Her mother was an artist and would try to get Soozie to draw, but Soozie hated the idea of drawing. She wanted to do anything but draw. Then, in her early twenties, after she graduated with a degree in philosophy, a friend enrolled in the Portland School of Art (now Maine College of Art). Soozie was between things, living in the woods and delivering newspapers, so she started drawing like mad and got in with a focus on printmaking. She also owned an art supply store with her mother for about a decade and later a gallery and frame shop. Her work can be found in two galleries, The Good Supply in Pemaquid (@thegoodsupply) and the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner, Maine (@maine_crafts_association). She is working on a website, and in the meantime you can DM Soozie through Facebook or Instagram (@ritasrim*). https://video.wixstatic.com/video/21f1e2_3568b6ce645c4f1ebfd23ff8be7040a8/480p/mp4/file.mp4
*Rita was inspired by the name Soozie gave to her 60 year old O’Keefe and Merritt gas stove her husband, Wendell, had moved here from L.A.. Rita’s Rim comes from thinking about making hot sauce and starting a business called Rita’s Atlantic Rim. “Everyone talks about the Pacific Rim, but not the Atlantic Rim. I don't know if there even is one...”.