From the remote island of Orcas, Kandis Susol creates her stunning monochromatic encaustic paper sculptures as a form of spiritual practice. When one observes her working you get the sense that she is so focused on the piece she is creating that all else falls away. Inspired by her early study and practice of the Japanese tea ceremony, garden design in Kyoto, Japan and her ongoing study of Zen Buddhism, she is wholeheartedly present in the moment when she works, infusing each piece with a meditative quality and materials representing all four earthly elements: water, air, fire, and earth.
Susol begins each workday with a bowl of Matcha tea and meditation to center herself, followed by a walk through her family’s heritage orchard of century-old Gravenstein apple, Shiro plum, and pear trees to her art studio, which is situated in an old converted barn built with reclaimed materials, and sits next to the property’s pond, under the shade of a Maple Tree. The barn studio is named Jakuan, meaning “Arbor of Tranquility” in Japanese.
Inside her studio, she has dedicated space for handcrafting the paper, a months-long endeavor that starts with raw Kozo pulp from Japan. On the second floor of the barn, she has space to meditate and conceptualize each piece by drawing with chalk onto slate. Once she has the shape of the design and how the energy will flow across each sculpture, she draws the design directly onto custom-made birch panels handcrafted by a craftsman on Orcas Island. She then takes strips of the paper she’s made and meticulously adheres and sculpts each piece with heat, wax, and damar resin.
“In my work, I am honoring paper, rather than painting. Paper is usually in the background of artists’ works. It’s what they cover-up, and paint over. I’m bringing it to the foreground.” — Kandis Susol
A large part of Susol’s work includes designing one-of-a-kind pieces for private clients and companies. For these commissions, she visits locations to experience elements like the light, size, and scale of a space, as well as the design ethos of the client before conceptualizing in her studio.
The colors one perceives in each piece are not colors from dye, but the play of light and shadow as one moves position in relation to the artwork. Each work is comprised of natural elements, including iridescent pigment made from the likes of fish scales and freshwater oyster shells ground into an oil medium to uniquely reflect light.