Ruthin Craft Centre
The Centre for the Applied Arts


Gallery 1, 2 & 3

Susan Halls

Biting Back 23 March – 30 June 2024

Susan Halls is one of the UK’s leading figurative ceramicists. She has been making her distinctive animal sculptures for forty years, firstly from the UK in the early nineties and then from America where she was based for twenty years. Her work is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Centre of Ceramic Art, York, and the Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki, Japan. She has also featured in numerous books and publications.

Her current work, predominantly feline, draws upon her muse Mussels the cat as well as the pigs and fowl she observes in the fields and farmyards around her studio in Poldhu, Cornwall. Though an accomplished maker, Halls is not driven by technique. She uses the full spectrum of ceramic processes as she needs, effortlessly switching from hand building to wheel throwing, majolica painting to scraffito, raku to stoneware firing, to bring her drawings to life in clay. Her unsentimental animal forms captivate in full living, breathing, majesty, appearingready to spring into purring or squawking life.

Biting Back is Halls’ first solo show in the UK for over thirty years. As befits her exceptional talents, she is one of only a handful of artists afforded the honour of occupying all three of Ruthin Craft Centre’s gallery spaces.

Curated by Sharon Blakey and Alex McErlain.
Photography: Shannon Tofts

Publications Susan Halls

Susan Halls: Biting Back

28 pages, softback
Full colour, 210x210mm
ISBN 978-1-911664-30-7

Language: English
Publication date: March 2024
To order call: 01824 704774 or email:



Exhibition titles can be revealing. Attempting to capture the essence of the work means thinking carefully about how the artist’s work is perceived. In the case of Susan Halls, her animals are not sweet or whimsical, neither are they realistic portrayals of a species. More, her art works are about how it feels to be an animal. Made with the scent of danger in the air, Halls’ animals are perceptively and dynamically wrought. Hers are animals with bite.

That she can animate clay so convincingly is down to her deep and complete immersion in her subject matter. In farmyards, fields, zoos and museum collections around the world, Halls spends hours scrutinising differing species, including human, making drawings that capture the spirit of how they appear, not just physically but emotionally too. Look at those two cats fighting; how the tooth, the claw, the fur and the howling are embodied in clay and glaze. A pig with teeth, an army on the move, a cockerel with a hard stare and even sharper beak. Biting Back raises the question, who is doing the biting, animal, or artist? 

Sharon Blakey & Alex McErlain