Olen first trained in ceramics under the mentorship of potter John Takehara for a period of eight years in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. He then completed undergraduate studies at Yale University (BA History of Art and Architecture, 1997), where a research grant through the Edward A. Bouchet Fellowship Program enabled extensive travel to draw and photograph nearly 150 Romanesque sites in France and Spain (three months, summer 1995), and various temples, mosques and other sacred sites in Japan, China, India, Pakistan and Turkey (four months, summer 1996). During this travel, Olen also studied various examples of ceramics, enamel wares, lacquer, painting, sculpture, textiles and other decorative arts.
Other studio training included a one-year apprenticeship in the British Studio Pottery tradition with potter Maishe Dickman in New Haven, Connecticut in 1998, followed by a move to Queensland, Australia in 1999 to live and work with woodfiring potter Gwyn Hanssen Pigott in Netherdale. During his time in Australia, Olen also worked with potters Carol and Arthur Rosser in the Eungella rainforest, and visited the studios of a number of contemporary Australian woodfiring potters along the coast from Mackay to Canberra. He returned to the US to continue studies in clay at the Kansas City Art Institute (BFA 2001) and sculpture at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA 2003) before moving to Brooklyn, NY under a fellowship from the Dedalus Foundation. In 2008, Olen established a home and studio in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where he now lives with his partner Michael and their Bedlington Terrier, Poilu.
Olen Hsu is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Dedalus Foundation, the AIM Program at The Bronx Museum of the Arts (New York), the Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center Artist-in-Residence Program (New York), the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Arts/Industry Program, and a Turbulence Commission from New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. In 2018 Olen won the Purchase Award at Jianshui Ceramics Museum, Jianshui, China.
His work has been shown at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; the InterSpace New Media Arts Center in Sofia, Bulgaria; James Nicholson Gallery, New York; Ampersand International Arts, San Francisco; P.S. 122 Gallery, New York; Turbulence.org; The Philadelphia Art Alliance; The Clay Studio, Philadelphia; and Beaux Arts Bath, United Kingdom.