A talented, creative friend of mine got me in touch with Michele Michael of Elephant Ceramics, and greatly urged me to visit her beautiful studio tucked deep into the woods of Maine. Situated right past a farm, alongside a river, and up wooded hill sits the home and studio of Michele and her husband Patrick. I was greeted by two smiling faces and three friendly dogs, and couldn't wait to start photographing their amazing property. Infused with nature, bright whites and natural woods, handmade details, pops of blue, and modern designs, I was overjoyed with photographing their spaces and how easily and freely it all merged together. Read more below for the interview with Michele!
How did you get started in ceramics? Did you always have the dream of working with clay?
I was buying ceramics at a local, neighborhood pottery studio when I learned that they offered classes. I hadn't been thinking seriously about making ceramics until that opportunity happened. I immediately signed up for classes that week and ended up spending all my free time there working. I loved it right from the start!
You have a very unique design sense; clean, simple, airy, yet intricate and detailed. How did you aesthetics develop throughout your lifetime, and what influenced you the most?
I studied textile design in art school. My first job out of college was an editorial position at House & Garden magazine. My very first shoot was with the photographer Horst P. Horst and I worked with other amazing photographers such as Oberto Gili, Todd Eberle, Sheila Metzner and Francois Hallard. I was responsible for helping to style the interiors we were shooting for the magazine. I quickly fell in love with the whole world of design and learned a great deal from working there. From House & Garden I went on to work as an editor at several other magazines, write a decorating book, produce interior design stories and style photo shoots as a freelancer, open a prop house called Elephant Props, and now hand make make my own ceramics. Certainly my exposure to the design world, working with so many creative, talented people, traveling and the natural beauty of my surroundings in Maine have all influenced my ceramics.
Having lived in Brooklyn for many years, what attracted you to Maine and how did you settle on Dresden?
Like many things in my life it was just pure chance and luck that we our found our way to Dresden.
Do you find that living in Maine has helped your career as a ceramic artist, or hindered it?
Neither necessarily…..though I have drawn a lot of my inspiration for my color palette from my surroundings in Maine.
Tell us a little bit about your studio space and how it was built/designed.
We wanted to build a traditional timber frame barn that had a somewhat modern feel to it which would house my ceramic studio and my husband’s wood working shop. Light and open space is very important to me. We worked with a local timber framer, Mike Beaudry, who cut the trees down in our woods that we needed for the frame. He then hand hewed each timber by hand. My husband whittled each peg that holds the frame together. When it was time to raise the frame we had a traditional barn raising party that included many of our neighbors and friends.
What is your favorite part of your studio?
The entire space….I love it!
Do you have a piece that you have made that is your favorite?
My favorites change from firing to firing.
What is your favorite part of the process? It seems a ceramic artist would need to be very patient for the start to finish process of what you do. Do you find that hard?
Not sure you would consider this part of the process, but opening the kiln is my favorite part. After putting so much work into a group of pieces it’s always exciting to see the results. Luckily I am a fairly patient person because it is a very
Slow process from start to finish.
Where and how do you market yourself?
I have been very lucky to receive a lot of press coverage in magazines around the world and thru blogs. One of the greatest boosts to the visibility of Elephant Ceramics was being included in Jennifer Causey’s The Makers Project and published book “Brooklyn Makers.”
Do you wholesale or sell independently and why?
I only sell my work thru my online shop. Making my work is really about the joy of the process and experimenting along the way. If I went into production mode to supply stores or orders the joy of working in the moment would no longer be there for me.
What are some of your favorite reads/visits (internet, books, papers, etc.)?
I love reading about food….some of my favorites are:
My Life in France by Julia Child
The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin
The Measure of her Powers by M.F.K. Fisher
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Food & Wine
Where do you look to for inspiration?
Everywhere! Travel, nature, art, food, textiles, history, ….
What are your plans and hopes for the next 10 years?
Live everyday to the fullest. Keep life full of surprises with new projects, new activities and new places to visit.
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