Posted July 12, 2017 in Blog

Shiyuan Xu, “Through the Lens #4,” 2016. Photo courtesy of Lisa Hardaway.

The following interview is the first in a summer series of Q&A sessions with current resident artists. HCCC Intern Claire Alderson recently spoke with Shiyuan Xu, a ceramicist inspired by a microscopic view of our world.

Claire Alderson: Do your ceramic sculptures and graphite drawings play off of one another? Or do you envision them as separate bodies of work?

Shiyuan Xu: For me, the drawings serve as additions to my ceramic pieces. They are reproductions and echo my ceramics in a very effective way, but I am trying to figure out how to intertwine the two mediums more closely.

Shiyuan Xu, “The Remaining,” 2016. Photo courtesy of Peter Bugg.

CA: How have the less predictable processes and materials of your pieces, especially the way you experiment with glaze, influenced your style and concept as an artist?

SX: I think that in my approach a lot of good things happen during the making process. It is always a learning experience, even if I have done it many times, because each piece is a new challenge. My mistakes provide me with opportunities for discovery, either through trying to correct them or attempting to take advantage of them—which may give me new ideas. The less predictable my process is, the more it pushes me to embrace unexpected results. I have found that the lack of control adds a loose, free quality to my work that people are really attracted to.

Shiyuan Xu, “The Most Wondrous Tiny Things,” 2016. Photo by Paul Hester.

CA: Considering your interest in nature, are there certain microscopic structures that inspire you more than others? What is it about studying structures on a molecular level that intrigues you?

SX: I pay particular attention to microscopic forms related to the origin of life, like seeds and diatoms or radiolarians in the ocean. What fascinates me about these structures is the degree of complexity within such basic, tiny life forms that provides evidence of their growth, expansion, and decay with such extraordinary beauty. It amazes me how nature is constantly at work when I study these microscopic images, and it keeps me coming back to look at them over and over again.

Shiyuan Xu in her studio at HCCC. Photo by HCCC.

CA: What will you be doing next?

SX: In the fall, I will be joining Lawrence Arts Center in Kansas for a year-long residency.

CA: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

SX: I hope to continue my practice and be able to display my work worldwide.

About Shiyuan Xu                                                                                              Shiyuan Xu is currently a yearlong resident at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. She received her Bachelor of Arts from China Academy of Art in 2012 and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University in 2016. Shiyuan is the recipient of various distinguished awards, including the Emerging Artist Award from Ceramics Monthly, the Sage Summer Scholarship from the Archie Bray Foundation, the 2015 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the International Sculpture Center, and an Honorable Mention from Gyeonggi International Ceramics Biennial. Her work has been featured in Ceramics Monthly and Sculpture Magazine, and she recently exhibited a solo show, “Obscure Traces,” at Lone Star College in Montgomery, TX ( For more information on Shiyuan Xu, please visit,