To style a recent photoshoot, we went in search of tableware with the same nature-infused style and handcrafted soul as our linens. Our search led us to Elephant Ceramics, a studio in Maine, where Michele Michael creates ceramics with rich, rare colors and textures that remind us of earth’s footprint – organic, asymmetrical, yet always confidently placed. Her work is rooted in the rustic, informed by nature, but there’s something modern and almost urban to it, too. In Elephant Ceramics, we’ve found a kindred spirit, and needless to say, we were smitten.
When did you begin creating with clay?
About five years ago.
How did you get into it?
When I lived in Brooklyn, NY, I visited a neighborhood ceramic studio with the intent to buy some pieces for the prop house that I owned. I was always looking for beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces to add to our collection.
I was surprised to learn that they also offered ceramic lessons there. I immediately signed up for a class! I had been wanting the opportunity to make something with my hands again.
When did you decide to launch Elephant Ceramics?
Six months into making ceramics I was able to rent studio space at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Maine, which is where we had a second home.
For the month of August I was able to work independently in this gorgeous, rural setting. Because I had all this space to work I was able to work on a larger scale and in larger quantity. It was such a luxury! I experimented with glaze recipes and did tons of testing. I felt I really developed my look and signature glaze colors during that time. It felt like a turning point. When I returned to NY that fall and introduced this body of work to the stylists and photographers, I received a very positive response.
Encouraged by this, I felt I should move forward and create a website, blog, and eventually an online shop.
Is your studio in your home or elsewhere?
It's about 30 feet from my house in a barn we built two years ago. The interior of the barn is a traditional timber-frame made from pine and oak from our property. Each timber is hand hewn with a broad ax. The exterior has a very simple, modern feel to it. It's a wonderful place to work.
Do you create every day? What does a typical day look like for you?
No, I don't work in my studio every day. I don't really have a typical day. Sometimes I work in my studio over a series of days, sometimes I take breaks to do other things.
How would you sum up your design philosophy?
For me it is all about the joy of the process which I hope is reflected in each piece I make.
What is it about clay/ceramics that draws you?
Being able to work with my hands. To have a vision and create it from scratch.
Prefer city or country?
Which colors do you use most?
Blue--many different shades of blue including indigo, turquoise, aqua, grey-blue, sky blue, lagoon, peacock--and white.
How do you create such amazing textures?
I use homespun linen to create my signature texture.
What do you do/where do you go to refill the creative well?
I head to Reid State Park which is about a half hour from our home. In my opinion it is one of the world's most beautiful places. It's one of the few places in Maine with long, wide sandy beaches with big sand dunes, rocky headlands, tidal pools, wetlands and inlets. The diversity makes for really interesting walks.
Does your home look like the one you grew up in?
No. My parents were antique dealers specializing in Victorian and turn of the century pieces. My childhood home looked and felt like a museum. I'm sure I developed my love for interiors and decorative objects from my parents which I am thankful for. My home is all about light and comfort.....and trying not to own too many things.
What is your favorite room in your house (and why)?
That's a tough question since I like each room in our house for different reasons! I'd have to say our living/dining area because of the floor-to-ceiling windows (and because the house is built on a hill surrounded by many trees) it feels like we live in a treehouse! We have beautiful views of the Eastern River and get to bird watch all day long. Just last week a Barred Owl landed in a tree in front of our house. This morning we have already seen Eagles and a Hairy Woodpecker!
What's your favorite design errand or journey?
I have to say my trip to India this past fall. I participated in a block printing workshop with a wonderful group of women and fellow artists. I learned so much. It was probably one of the most difficult journeys I've made, and yet one of the most inspiring. I came away with a renewed passion for textile printing (which I studied in college) and am currently working with one of the block printers I met there on a project.
What's one thing you wish you could do without?
The internet. It really sucks up too much time with very little satisfaction in return.
What's your most treasured possession?
I don't really want to call them my possessions, but it would have to be my relationship with my animals. We have three cats and three dogs. They ground me every day.