Mpowered. By Women for Women: Sue Mifsud

Mpowered. By Women for Women: Sue Mifsud

Meet Sue Mifsud – a ceramic artist, designer, and teacher in Malta. Sue quickly established herself with her distinctive and unique style and has been commissioned by some of the best restaurants in the world.

Sue Mifsud started her journey in 1993 after she studied design at Glasgow School of Art. Having blond hair and a Midland accent, it is clear that Sue is not Maltese. So, how did she end up on our tiny Maltese Islands? Listen to the full podcast below.

‘I first came to Malta on holiday with my family when I was fifteen years old. We did all kinds of touristy things and I think this started my love for Malta. When I was 19, I came back for a holiday with my best friend and I met a guy, who is now my husband. We stayed in touch for two years. Eventually, I decided to settle down here. I have been in Malta since 1999. Malta is home for me. I love my extended family, my friends, and my job. When I go back to the UK, I feel like I’m in-between two places.’

Sue Mifsud is a ceramic designer. The term ceramics means anything that is made of clay. One of the main aspects of her job is to do commission work, designed to people’s taste. However, Sue also does work for restaurants, including Michelan restaurants and chefs.

‘A great meal can look average if you serve it on a cheap plate. When a person is sitting down and eating from it, they need to feel the full experience. However, the plate should never outshine the food, just act as a background to it. I don’t use bright colours that will overpower the food, for example. The plate needs to subtly interact with you, such as the sound it makes when you cut the food. I also like to reflect the personality of the chef.’

Sue mainly works for chef patrons, so the chef is both the main chef and the owner of the restaurant.

‘I first start the process by collecting all of the information that I can on the interior design of the restaurant. From all of that, I then bring in a design that reflects the place. I give them initial prototypes so that they can see what I’ve come up with. After the prototypes, comes the tweaking and then produce the final design which, once approves, gets sent onto production.’

Sue explains that there are three different types of clay: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. They are categorised by their firing temperatures. Earthenware fires up to 1,000 degrees centigrade, stoneware is mid-firing, and this is the one Sue uses for her work, then porcelain goes up to around 1,300 degrees centigrade which is why it is so hard.

‘The clay that I buy comes from Stock-on-Trent in the UK, not far from where I grew up. Malta doesn’t produce clay; it has clay slopes, most of them protected, and most of it is earthenware.’

Sue has owned her fulltime business since 2014 and she explains how opening up her business was a massive leap of fate.

‘It was strange, and I went into it with no business plan. I knew I had to get things in order, but I had no plan on what I was going to do. I trust in fate, a lot. I started teaching at the school and someone contacted me for summer classes as well. Then I started making things and restaurants started contacted me. Intuition tells you which things to accept and which things not to. My business formed itself.’

Sue is very respected for what she does in Malta and although there are other ceramicists on the island, Sue has managed to create her own niche, owning it beautifully.

‘I love what I do. My work is fun. If it ever stops being so, I will stop doing it. What I like about having my own business is that I can run it how I want. When you work for yourself, you make your own rules. I like working differently. For example, whenever I am commissioned to do a piece, I do not take a deposit to commit the customer to buying it. If they like the final piece, they will buy it. This gives me full freedom.’

When asked what is it that she loved most about her job, Sue gets into her element, and we can see her excitement.  

‘It’s not ordering the clay or mixing it, it’s being on the wheel and throwing something, having clay slipping from my hands, feeling the pressure of it – I can’t explain it. As long as I have my hands on clay, I am in my element.’

Trudy asks Sue a very controversial final question…’If you had the opportunity to create something for anyone in the world, who would it be?’

‘I don’t think like that – I seriously don’t. My brain doesn’t think like that. The only thing that I can tell you is that it has to be someone that is very experimental – no names. Sometimes pieces tend to be quite safe, and I would like to be experimental.’

Thank you, Sue for being on our podcast. It was a pleasure speaking to you and we surely learnt some interesting facts about clay! Listen to the full podcast below.