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Image Courtesy of Jules Frazier Photography
Image Courtesy of Jules Frazier Photography

Artist of the Week: Susan Zoccola

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Susan Zoccola: I have been an artist for over 30 years.

Do you work with other mediums?
Yes, many different mediums: large scale steel sculptures, glass, plaster, concrete, photography, textiles, wire, very inspired by different materials and find myself using new materials and techniques for particular projects, as the space or idea requires.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
My process is very intuitive, both in the studio and for commissions. When I’m invited to create work for a particular place, (which I really enjoy), and if it’s been built already, I try to spend time there to get the feel of it at different times of day and to come to understand how and who uses the space. I take lots of photos which I print out and pin to my studio wall, then let myself imagine what I would like to see in that space. If it hasn’t been built yet, I spend a lot of time with the architects plans and renderings. Usually, I am working with a municipality or design team, and the process then includes my sharing multiple ideas to the team to figure out together which one to develop further - which one “fits”. I enjoy this collaborative aspect of the process.

Then, I develop one or two of the ideas further and start to do renderings in Photoshop or Sketchup and to envision what materials to use. This process continues until we arrive at a final idea that I then start working on with a fabricator to realize. I have several great fabricators who I work with to make my large scale public projects. For the Pacific Place project, I worked with Jim Schmidt of Art and Design Works in Oregon to make the armature that holds the suspended artwork, and Metalistics in Everett to bend the 350 stainless steel rods that hold the balls. Also, I worked for several months with a team of wonderful assistants in my studio to hand metal leaf the 2200 spheres and to attach all the balls to the rods and the multitude of other tasks involved in making a sculpture of this scale. Art and Design Works also installed the final artwork.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from?
I find nature endlessly inspiring. This piece, “Murmuration” was inspired by the beautiful shapes certain birds make when they flock together in large numbers and move across the sky.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
My favorites are usually the one I am working on or just finished. I get very attached to and involved in the process of making a new piece in the studio or out in the public. My feelings about certain pieces or bodies of work change over time too.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I’d have to say all the experiences of my life have affected my art, and it’s still utterly mysterious to me.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I’m still very excited about the new piece, “Murmuration”, at Pacific Place, as it’s only been up a few weeks. Next, I have projects in San Diego and Palo Alto that I will be installing later this year. I have been working on both of them for a number of years, so it will be exciting to actually start making them and to work on the logistics of getting them installed.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
A double shot cappuccino.