From southwestern motifs and celestial space temples to animated bear families and vivid underwater scenes, the world of Susan Allen constantly surprises and amazes. By using the finest diamond-plated bits in dental drills, Allen transforms mossy inclusions into undulating coral reefs, creates fish that appear to dart in and out of golden rutile, and builds tiny villages that spring from gently sloping hillsides. Allen's mastery of microscopic detail and the power of imagination is unrivaled making her one of the most widely collected internal carvers in the world.
Allen is entirely self-taught in the art of gem carving. For many years, she satiated her desire to create as a professional painter but when she discovered internal carving in the mid-1980's she knew she had found the perfect medium for the fantasy worlds she was exploring on canvas. Inspired by internal carver Christian Yeagan, she began to experiment with the art of tunneling and reverse stone carving.
Allen's goal is to balance and complement, not detract from, the natural beauty of the mineral. Starting with a carefully chosen then polished crystal, she sometimes studies a stone for years before making a carving. She then begins the painstaking process of hollowing out her tiny, intricately textured images so that they appear to float behind a magic window. While carving, the formation of a continuous milky slurry of mineral waste necessitates constant cleaning and drying in order to keep the working area visible. It is a never-ending challenge to reach the area of the crystal she is working on while still maintaining steady hands and correct lighting; she often finds herself in very contorted positions. A medium-sized internal piece can easily have 50 to 80 hours work in the carving alone while a larger piece can take hundreds of hours to complete. Each is a treasure combining the beauty of nature with Allen's own rich imagination.
Allen's work appears in private collections and has been displayed worldwide, including in exhibits at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Chicago. She has placed many times in the American Gem Trade Association's prestigious "Cutting Edge" competition, capturing second place in 1991 and third place in 1992, 1997, and 1998. Her work has also been featured in Articles in Gem and Lapidary Journal.