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(Mud)Shot: Michelle Summers

Woo hoo! Today we have another exciting artist profile on (Mud)Bucket.  Michelle Summers makes the coolest work- funky shapes and textures meet brilliant colors, quirky characters, and rad illustration. I'm such a fan, and it's so awesome to share her (Mud)Shot with you all today. Enjoy!

The Stats: Michelle Summers, Portland, OR, 10 years working in clay

Do you remember how or when, exactly, the clay bug bit you?

     I believe it happened shortly after visiting the Contemporary Craft Gallery in Portland. I saw some ceramic pieces that opened my eyes to the possibilities of what could be made with clay.  After I started to apply imagery and texture on my pots, I was hooked.

Can you choose three words to describe your work?

     Dreamscape, vibrant, illustrative

I find that as ceramic artists we can get really focused on the ceramic art world and forget what’s happening outside of it. Can you name a non-ceramic artist whose work inspires you?

     Actually, there are several I can mention: Megan Bisbee-Durlam (1), Betsey Walton (4), Joseph Hart (3), Alidra Alic (2), to name a few.  I get most of my inspiration from outside the ceramics world than from within it.

The directions you can choose as a ceramic artist are so many and so varied that we often have to choose a few areas to focus our expertise on. Is there a technique or skill, apart from your own, that you admire or aspire to?

     I think I want to transition into more hand built pottery.  I am attracted to the inviting warmth of hand built pottery with its textures and finger marks left like clues of its construction.

As makers, we are often surprised by what our audience likes best of our work. And our audience’s favorites aren’t always the same as our own. Of your own work, do you have a favorite piece or project?

     I enjoy making cups more than any other form.

Alternately, what is your favorite part of your creative process? (Sketching, glazing, pulling handles, installing, etc.)

     Etching images into leather hard clay.

Can you describe your studio space in a few words or sentences?

     Small, homey, bright.  My studio is in the middle of my apartment, starting where a dining nook was meant to be and extends all the way to the door of my bedroom.  Being a bit of a miser, I couldn’t bring myself to pay rent on a little room in the basement, so I live in my studio.

What is the one tool you can’t live without?

     My etching pencil.  I bought it for etching on silver but found it works even better on leather hard clay.

There are ceramic residencies, studios, schools, galleries, conferences, and museums all over the world. Where has your artwork taken you or where would you like it to take you in the future?

     I hope in the near future to do a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation or Penland.  Someday I hope to travel to China or Japan and learn about the ceramic traditions and processes used there.

Artists are multifaceted people and we often have more than one passion. What is an activity outside of ceramic work that you really enjoy?

     I like to go to the bookstore near my home, get a coffee and roam through the magazine isles.  I’m a big fan of home decorating magazines and, of course, art magazines. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from another artist?

     It was something like this, “ideas are a dime a dozen, everyone has them and they don’t mean a thing if you don’t make them happen.”

Teachers always impress the importance of the sketchbook and designers often develop mood-boards as creative as their actual work. How do you collect inspiration?

     Other than my ventures to the magazine isles, I follow a lot of blogs online for inspiration.

If you could have a one-on-one workshop with any ceramist (living or not), who would it be?

     Meredith Brickell

How about some more preferences, perhaps a bit more trivial, shall we…

-Favorite color? Green
-Coffee or tea? Tea
-Last good film or book? Red, the movie based on the DC comic
-Minimalist or maximalist? Maximalist trying to become a minimalist
-Dogs or cats? Cats
-Favorite season? Spring
-Music, silence, or NPR in the studio? Music
-Sloths or lemurs? Lemurs!

And a bit more personal… Michelle, I've noticed you are an artist of many mediums. In addition to making pottery, you also design jewelry and paint. Your unique style, however, is clearly present in all that you do. How do you figure out which projects will get more or less of your creative energy or time? And do you have any advice on developing or maintaining a 'cross-media' voice for other artists interested in pursuing multiple mediums? 

     Since childhood I always aspired to be an artist and have tried my hand at every type of art medium I could.  After taking many many art classes at a local community college, I decided to pick a discipline and stick with it.  Even though I loved working in so many other mediums, I choose ceramics because it allows me to combine many of my other artistic interests. 
     Since my college days, I still dabble in painting and jewelry making as a personal hobby and they are something I do when I need a break from ceramics to play creatively with out any pressure.  I often find working in different mediums reveals new ideas to take back to my ceramics.  However, I don’t have a lot of time between jobs, so I have to devote most of my time to ceramics. 

Do you have a blog we can follow?

     Yes!  michmashceramics.blogspot.com

Lastly, where can we see your work up close and personal?

     I mostly show at craft venues like Crafty Wonderland in Portland and maybe this summer at Urban Uprising in Seattle.

If you are interested in participating in an artist profile or studio tour, shoot me an email with a link to your website or blog.  :)


Linda Fahey said...

FAB U LOUS!!! I am a HUGE fan of Michelle's work! A HUGE fan. I keep hoping someone will get her to the bay area for a workshop!

thanks Jlu - great post. thanks Michelle - very inspiring!

Ron said...

Great interview. I really like that pic of Michelle with all her deco materials out in front of her. Gives me a glimpse into how she works. I love her work!

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