Artist shapes love of hounds in clay

Published April 4, 2007

BRANDON - Susan O'Hara considers herself equally an artist and greyhound lover.

So much so that the Belgian-born potter and sculptor, whose family immigrated to America by way of Cuba, has created a Web site that combines her love of both canine and clay.

At www.greytgifts.com art lovers can browse O'Hara's beautiful clay vases adorned with the slender faces of her favorite animals. O'Hara also sells small vases, ornaments, magnets and 7-inch "sitting greyhounds" that look as smooth as soapstone and elegantly primitive as Eskimo carvings.

The retired Yale medical school administrative assistant gives 20 percent of her profits to Greyhound Rescue and Adoptions of Tampa Bay GREAT - great-greyhound.org - an organization that rescues retired greyhound racers, rehabilitates them into pets and finds them loving homes.

"Greyhounds are so wonderful. Once you adopt one, you will never want any other kind of dog," she explains. "People assume that because they've been racers, they're still slightly wild but they're not. While at the track, they're kept in cages every day and only let out every four hours. So they're very acclimated to sitting."

O'Hara, 72 and recently in remission from leukemia, lives with her husband, Joseph, in Brandon. They share their house with two adopted greyhounds, Kelly and Delia.

She works from an art studio in her garage, without a potters' wheel, primarily using the hand-thrown clay method.

The greyhound gifts represent only a fraction of her work, which is on display at the Florida Craftsman Gallery, the St. Petersburg Clay Co., Studio Encanto Art Gallery and the Vincent William Gallery - all in St. Petersburg.

Before moving to Brandon four years ago, she won numerous awards in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where she lived for many years.

"I absolutely love, love, love working in clay," she says of the medium so perfect for creating delicate likenesses of her beloved greyhounds. "I'm a clay person."

Her love of the lanky, sweet-tempered dogs, she says, has to do with their gentle dispositions, quiet auras and ability to rest peacefully around the house during the day, "though they are happy to go anywhere you want to go."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.