Cardinal Designer

Danbury natives ideas adorn china, paper plates

By Kamilla Gary

Susan Steinberg of Sherman holds her cardinal-themed design for Mikasa dinnerware.

The News-Times/Wendy Carlson

 SHERMAN Susan Steinbergs love of art and color is evident throughout her home and in her personality. Its also available for others to enjoy in their own homes.
Mikasa is offering the Danbury natives bright red cardinal designs on everything from plates to mugs to creamers.

This isnt the first time the well-known housewares company has featured Steinbergs designs. In 1998, her black and white Parisian sketch scenes were featured on dinnerware sold by the company. She has the Parisian dishes and she uses them every day they still look brand new.

"Theyre very sturdy, Steinberg said. "We eat off these every day.

Steinberg, who owns Steinberg Designs LLC, chose cardinals as her subject matter after seeing the aerodynamic, fire-engine red birds with the little peak of feathers atop their heads, eating from a bird feeder she has attached to a window on her home studio in Sherman.

"Reds my favorite color and I thought theyd be neat, Steinberg said. She began researching all the birds that would come to the feeder, learning about their feeding habits and their songs. Without looking up, she could tell which type of birds were visiting the feeder.

"Cardinals are shy, theyre very fatherly they will help other birds, Steinberg said.

She submitted the design to Mikasa about a year ago and the company liked it. Steinberg said it takes six months to a year to move from concept to catalog with dinnerware designs.

After teaching locally for 13 years, the 45-year-old artist who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., and a masters degree in school psychology from Southern Connecticut State University in addition to art certification and special education certification, decided to pursue her passion full time.

She got into ceramics after a friend asked her to design a tile to set into a table.

"I looked around for a ceramics studio, this was before the paint-it-yourself places, Steinberg said. She designed four tiles for her friend and that mushroomed into an interest in painting designs on everything from pitchers to serving platters to plates and vases.

Leaving her job wasnt an easy decision, because she had gotten use to the security her teaching position provided. Steinberg admits she was scared at first.


Designer Susan Steinberg says she was inspired by cardinals feeding at her outdoor bird feeder. 

The News-Times/Wendy Carlson

"It was hard, but I thought, if I don't try this, I'm going to regret it,"Steinberg said. She said her students also encouraged her to market her skills. "I said that if Im going to quit my job, I have to go to the best companies to see if theyre interested in my work."

Steinberg estimates that she was about 37 or 38 years old when she made the decision. She would go to stores and look at dinnerware and then she would contact companies.

When she was contacted by Fort James Corp. (in 2000 the company was acquired by Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific), the company that made Dixie paper products, she thought it was a joke. It turned out that they had gotten a hold of her business card, which bears her whimsical, colorful designs, and they requested a hand-painted design for a line of paper plates.

The result was a fruit-themed plate which had various summer-time fare, including watermelon slices and grapes, around the plates border.

Steinberg also designed a paper towel for New Jersey-based Marcal paper products.

Not afraid to try different media, Steinberg has created portraits of famous couples such as Prince Charles and Princess Diana and former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy. The materials used to create those 3-D masterpieces were soil, leaves, wax and oil paint.

"Those were part of my deeper past, Steinberg said, smiling. She also has vibrant, smaller pieces done using a method of wax painting called encaustic.

In just about all the pieces, the uses of rich colors yellows, reds, blues and greens are present.

Looking ahead, Steinberg said she hopes to do more dinnerware pieces and more simple designs shes always looking out for new subject matter. She doesnt have an agent, saying that she prefers to work directly with people so she can better understand their vision for the art pieces being done for them.

In addition to doing commissioned pieces and her work with Mikasa, Steinberg has also designed for Imports Unlimited, Pfaltzgraff, Acorn Placemats, Culver Industries, Rite-Lite Judaica and Fruit of the Loom.

"Its quite a business. You have to stay with the trends and keep up, Steinberg said. "You never know whats going to be a hit or not, you have to keep working at it.

Steinbergs cardinal dinnerware is available at www.mikasa.com or by calling 1-866-MIKASA-9. Steinberg has her own Web site at www.steinbergdesign.com, or she can be reached at (860) 355-8301.

Contact Kamilla Gary

at kgary@newstimes.com

or at (860) 354-2274.