Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meet Your Makers: Sue Dunham Danielson of SuDan Design

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business:

My name is Susan (Sue) Danielson.  Although I have a degree in English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh, and have worked in administration for various educational and medical institutions, I've always seen myself as an artist. I've loved doing arts and crafts since I was a child, and have continued to try new crafts throughout my life. In the mid-'70's, my husband gave me a Christmas gift of a Batik class at the Arts and Crafts Center in Shadyside. I took to this craft quickly, and had a space at that year's Fair in the Park in Mellon Park, Shadyside. I did quite well, selling framed batiks, wall and window hangings, stuffed dolls, and clothing.

When I retired from my job last April, I finally found the time to attempt to make this a real business.

In addition to batik, which I sell at Boutique 208, I continue to do photography (framed and greeting cards), as well as linoleum and wood block prints (framed and greeting cards). I also make suncatcher/rainbow makers that are sold at the Boutique.  I also make jewelry which I sell in my Etsy shop.

How did you come up with your business name?  SuDan Design is simply a conjoining of the first parts of my first and last names (Susan, or Sue, Danielson). I wanted to keep some personal identity in the business name, and the name just sounded good to me...it rolls easily off the tongue and is easy to remember.  I have a new name in mind that was suggested by my younger daughter, who helps me with the business, that I may transition to in the near future.

Where do you live?  I live in the Whitehall area of Pittsburgh, PA and visit my daughter in Santa Barbara, CA, whenever I get the chance.

Who’s in your family?  I live with my husband. Our two daughters are grown: one lives in Santa Barbara, CA and the other lives in the Washington, DC area.

If you could sit down and talk to any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?  If I must choose only one individual, I would say Leonardo DaVinci, a most amazing man, extremely talented as artist, engineer, and scientist, whose thinking was clearly outside the box. He managed to walk a line politically, which was extremely difficult during the violent times he lived in, and he not only managed to make a living doing what he loved and could do well, but he was respected and well-known during his life time.


What inspires you?   I am most inspired by the natural beauty and light in nature.  Organic forms such as trees, flowing water, leaves and flowers, a sunset, a rainbow, mountains, snow, candlelight, fireflies, butterflies, creatures, the human form...many things in the natural world. I also find inspiration in the works by master artists, sculptors, musicians and photographers such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Bouguereau, Gaudi, Bresson, Stieglitz, Adams, my friend David Aschkenas, to name a few.  Other inspirations are Art Nouveau, a great castle, a soaring cathedral, stained glass, African art and music...on and on and on. I am inspired by literature and ideas...spiritual and philosophical...and by children's art!

What is your favorite item you make for Boutique 208 and why?  My batik scarves and clothing. Batik appeals to me, because I enjoy working with color, and the surprises that "painting' with melted wax and multiple color dying creates, and I enjoy working free hand, e.g., not planning or drawing out a design ahead of time. I like the serendipity of spontaneity, as well as the freedom of changing a design idea as I go along. A mistake corrected may lead me in a different direction. Sometimes what seems to not be working, design-wise, will turn out to be my favorite item when it is completed.


What is your favorite item at Boutique 208 that’s not one of your own and why?   I like "upscaled" arts and crafts, e.g., re-used, re-created items that carry a history within, but are now back in commission with a new life. Kind of like re-incarnation for material objects! But I also like anything beautiful and well-made, and there's a lot of these items at Boutique 208, so I can't just mention one.

What advice can you offer to someone who would like to start selling their handmade creations? 
Do what you love! Just do it! You will learn so much as you research and practice your art/craft...and even if you learn that it's too expensive, or too time-consuming, it's a new skill  that you can build upon, and what you've created is something unique, if you follow your own inspiration and don't mass produce or try to please a specific market...to be marketable. For example, it's a huge temptation to produce "art" to meet a perceived interest or demand. In Pittsburgh, I would say that's the Andy Warhol style, witty Pop art/design edge that Pittsburghers come by naturally, but can extinguish true creativity if you give in to the desire to make and sell items that are not your own natural inclination or inspiration. It's not always easy to find your customers, but you will find admirers and supporters and encouragers who will feed your motivation, and inspire you, and keep you going through the tough times...which there will be, that's for sure.

I would also suggest networking with other artists/craftspeople, to learn where they exhibit and sell their work, e.g., names of stores, cooperative groups like Boutique 208, successful marketing, how to become more visible on Etsy, setting up your own website, exhibiting in local shows, renting space at local craft fairs and festivals, etc. To network with other artists, you'll first need to find other artists. I've taken classes at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, which is a great way to learn new techniques, and also a good way to meet other artists. I have a FB page where I post announcements and photos of my new work, which helps to get the word out, along with pictures of what I'm doing and where it can be purchased. At this point, I am still learning how to grow and market my own business, so I can't offer much more advice.


  1. I've never seen your linoleum or wood block prints- that is really cool! You're a power house of energy and talent!

    1. Thank you for your nice comment, SimpleSue. Is this you, Sue H?!