This is a special joy for Rankin, who purposely lives in the spectacular Precambrian shield region of Ontario – known for beautiful hardwood forests, but short on a summer growing season. Rankin addresses the issue of having a love affair with her garden in a frigid northern climate by incorporating the garden’s magic in her glasswork. She’s careful to accurately depict the vegetation – some petals might be bent or wilted or not fully opened. “They are flowers that are in the moment,” she says. “They have gestures. They’re not perfect and they’re not all the same.” Rankin creates each flower on the pipe, pinching and snipping each petal out. She places the flowers in the kiln while she works on the vase. When she’s happy with the shape of the vase, she begins to adhere the flowers, vines and petals using torchwork. She says she likes to “pile on” the flowers, to “over-decorate” the vase, resembling the lushness and abundance of a garden setting. In a unique step, she sandblasts the exterior to soften the look. “It’s funny because I work with glass, but I don’t like the shiny aspect of glass, because gardens aren’t shiny.” Instead, she denies the glassiness to give the piece a “crawling in dirt” feel. Within the flowering vine vessel series she uses black enamel and in a final step, she adds painted detail before she seals the vase. Rankin, who also teaches at the Haliburton School of the Arts, says she spends a lot of time planning and drawing forms in charcoal. She says she finds inspiration in classical forms because they are very sensual, pointing to the tight waist and broad shoulders of some of her vases.
It’s no accident that Rankin is an artist. Her mother is an accomplished painter and art curriculum writer for the public school system in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where she was born and raised. Her father was a successful photographer, but tragically died in a plane crash before she was born. Rankin’s early life was surrounded in art – both in the family home and through helping her mother with galleries and shows. Ironically, when fourteen, she stopped taking art classes in school because she was bored and felt she was not learning anything new. At seventeen, Rankin participated in her first show – a textile show – working in fiber. It would still be some time before Rankin handled her first piece of glass. Three years later, Rankin was drawing designs for a stained glass art business that she and her first husband shared in Vancouver, British Columbia. She recalls it was there that she was “wowed” by glass blowing when she first saw the art. Before long she headed to the well-known Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood Washington where fellow Canadians encouraged her to head to Sheridan College in Toronto, Canada. After graduation, she took up a three-year artist residency at the famed Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Since then, her work has appeared in numerous solo and invitational exhibitions and in collections across North America, including the Corning Museum. She works with her assistants, Blaise Campbell, Sally McCubbin and Jay Olauson, from her studio near Apsley in central Ontario, alongside her second husband Brad Copping, a glass artist she met while at Sheridan College. The couple take time each summer to attend workshops and collaborate with other glass artists.
Susan has won numerous awards and acknowledges the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and The Ontario Arts Council. Her work has been published in ‘Studio Glass, Anna & Joe Mendel Collection’, The Montreal Museum of Fine arts, ‘Susan Rankin:valid objects of beauty’, Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery, Cinzia Corella, ‘Contemporary Canadian Glass’, Winter 2007, Sally McCubbin, ‘World Art Glass Quarterly’, Volume 2 2007, Jill Culora, ‘Contemporary Canadian Glass,’ Spring 2007, Cinzia Corella, ‘500 Glass Objects’, Lark Books 2006, ‘Glass Art : International 2003’, Richard Yelle 2003, ‘Sheridan The Cutting Edge in Crafts’, James Strecker '99, ‘New Glass Review’, USA '91, '96, '97 & 2004, and ‘A Treasury of Canadian Craft’, Canada and Japan '92.
Her lively voluptuous vessels wrapped in vines, leaves and flowers have been shown in 30 solo exhibitions and numerous invitational and group exhibitions across North America in many of the most prestigious venues for contemporary glass. Rankin has work included in public collections at the Corning Museum, Claridge Collection, Michel-Pierre Grenier Collection, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Winnipeg Art Gallery, USB Bank (Canada), Department of Foreign Affairs, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Glazen Huis, Flemish Centre for Contemporary Glass Art, Lommel, Belgium, well as in many fine private collections.