For someone who just started working with ceramics nine years ago, Michele Michael of Elephant Ceramics has amassed quite a loyal following! After a “previous life” as a magazine editor and prop stylist in New York City, Michael discovered her love for pottery after taking a class at a little studio near her home in Brooklyn.
Six months later, Michael spent an entire month in Maine where she rented a studio space. Due to the large space, she was able to create both in large quantities and works of a much larger scale. Michael was able to experiment with glaze recipes and soon developed her look and signature glaze colors. This period marked a turning point for the talented artist and the company that was to be.
Now, Elephant Ceramics is made in a studio on Michael’s property, thirty feet from her home. The light-filled interior has a traditional timber-frame that is made from pine and oak trees removed from the property. Each timber is hand-hewn and this beautiful workspace provides Michael with a calming, organic place to work. Sometimes, she is in the studio for a week at a time, and sometimes, she needs to step away in order to garner inspiration.
Michael lives in a rural area of Maine… where it ISN’T hard to get inspired. However, when she needs an extra bit of inspiration, she heads to Reid State Park. This is one of the few places in Maine with long, wide, sandy beaches, big sand dunes, tidal pools, wetlands, rocky headlands, and inlets. She says it is truly magical!
Looking at her collection, it is clear that Michael has a penchant for blue. This isn’t a surprise, of course, due to the great outdoors just on the other side of her home’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The palette of blue is quite rich in texture and reflects the tidal pools, rock formations, and coastline that is found on Maine’s coast.
There are so many different shades of blue and the spectrum is so wide. Different days call for different textures; and Michael is careful to connect with her emotions to see whether she is feeling indigo, turquoise, grey-blue, peacock, aqua, or lagoon. And of course, you can never go wrong with white!
The imperfect and handmade pieces from the Elephant Ceramics line are unique because Michael uses homespun linen to create her signature texture. There isn’t a uniform shape that is made, and the texture is always different because the linen impacts the glaze differently on each piece.
There is a distinct method to Michael’s system. For large pieces such as platters, she uses a slab roller to ensure that the clay remains a uniform thickness; for smaller pieces, Michael uses her trusty rolling- pin.
Never working with clay and glazes at the same time, it could be several weeks between when she switches from one medium to the other. Firing takes three days, and the ceramics are fired twice- once during the bisque stage and once following glazing. After this process, Michael steps away and let’s the magic of heat and pressure naturally “cook.”.