Artist dabbles in different medians

Susan Williamson is not only the Visual Arts Coordinator of the Carroll County Arts Council, she is also an artist who is currently making jewelry.

Williamson has been an artist all her life. She dabbled in it as she was a child and the art interest never left her. When she was little she would take art supplies out in the yard or into the basement and disappear for hours. Her grandmother was a weaver and her mother was involved in art projects so she was surrounded by people doing things artistically. One of her cousins painted murals and portraits.


While she was always good at art in school, she did not major in it. Williamson majored in elementary education instead. Williamson took pottery, painting, drawing and fiber arts in college as electives. One of her fiber arts pieces won a prize and ended up in a show in Pittsburg. She kept taking arts classes whenever time permitted.

After graduation, Williamson taught art at St. Peter and Paul School in Easton for seven years. While teaching, she took painting classes from James D. Plum at Chesapeake Community College. As a result, she fell in love with 17th Century Dutch painting.


In 1990, Williamson opened her own pottery studio called "Off the Wall Pottery" in Easton. She also taught ceramics at the Academy of Art in Easton.

Williamson needed to get recertified in art education so she decided to get a Master's Degree in Art Education. She attended Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) and received a Master's in Liberal Arts in 1996. Her electives, however, were all art related, such as art history and other fine art classes.

After graduate school, she traveled to the Netherlands for three summers. The first summer she toured to see the great masters' works. The next two the summers she took painting techniques, restoration and conservation classes at the Amsterdam Maastricht Summer University, in Maastricht.

There, she learned how to prime canvas and how to stretch a canvas on a strainer stretcher and to grind pigment. A strainer stretcher is a stretcher without keys. Seventeenth Century canvas was similar to burlap so it had to be stretched and primed differently. She also learned how to sand panels with primitive techniques.

"I decided to leave that style of painting to those who were better at it," she said.

From 1997 to 2001 she taught at Western Maryland/McDaniel College as an adjunct professor. Williamson taught art history, Ancient World and Modern World and Ceramics Through Four Cultures. She returned to graduate school at Catholic University for a year for medieval studies.

Then in 2003, Williamson took a position as Visual Art Coordinator at the Carroll County Arts Council. She curates exhibits, teaches classes, gives lecture series, plans art related trips, teaches summer camp, does publicity outreach and sometimes makes costumes for the theater. Williamson still teaches Art Appreciation at Carroll Community College. In addition, she teaches a class as part of the series of Art Entrepreneurship classes through the Miller Center for Small Business.

Williamson is also a photographer whose work has been featured at Carroll Community College, Birdies Cafe and Eclecticity in Westminster, Dorchester Art Center in Cambridge, and Hanover Art Guild gallery. Many of her photographs are of people and abstractions of architecture.


When she travels, she loves to photograph faces, especially of children. Williamson chooses not to digitally enhance any of her work. She admires the work of Sue Bloom, Walter Calahan, Pam Zappardino and Phil Grout, all local photographers.

"When you travel you need a pocket full of change to tip those who let her take their photographs. They like the instant playback of a digital camera. A camera is a real connector of humanity," she said. "I never realized that before."

She is an avid traveler and likes to go to Mexico at least twice a year. Last year she went to Peru, then Buenos Aires and next summer Ecuador. Williamson always takes her camera with her. "I want my passport jammed full of stickers and stamps."

Williamson decided to get back into her own art so she wanted to learn to crochet necklaces. Her eyesight was too bad, so she began to do free form weaving of beads.

"It has turned into a unique style," she explained.

Williamson starts with a color combination of beads. She picks a bead she really likes and starts weaving. She never knows where she is going or where they will wind up. She formulated a way to make bracelets and necklaces in a similar style but she does not sell them as sets.


"They look good both with jeans and with dress up clothes," she said.

She also adds vintage pins to them. People often inherit their family costume jewelry that they do not want to wear as is, so Williamson upcycles it into a new form that is more up to date for today's culture. Recently, she did a custom necklace from antique Russian amber bracelets. The beads were too fragile for bracelets. When Williamson finished her design, the new owner said it was more beautiful than she could imagine.

Her jewelry is sold by Gallery Artrio in Hyannis, MA. Locally, her jewelry can be found at Eclecticity in Westminster on John Street. She also designs custom necklaces.

Williamson likes pouring through beads with her hands.

"I love the colors. I like using a combination of recycled and new beads," she explained. "My hands always have to be busy. It requires a very small space and does not require a studio. I can put them in a box and take them anywhere. I enjoy seeing them on the most fashionable necks in Westminster. I am always surprised when I see someone wearing them. They are not copied from anywhere."

Williamson has her own website (