Lauren Brunk on Michelle Erickson | November 10, 2023
The ceramicist Michelle Erickson, is that sort of rockstar artist that makes you wish you were sitting there with her in the studio, not just looking at her work in a museum or magazine article. I might go as far as to say she’s kind of the Taylor Swift of contemporary ceramics. If that reference is lost on you, then let me explain that I have a teenage daughter, but I have also been a fan girl of Michelle’s work for a long time and neither of us is that old so she got started really young and has not looked back.
Her work, and pedigree are summarized this article from a Chipstone Ceramics Journal written by Rob Hunter (linked here). Please read it because like me, you will want to say, “I have loved her work for decades…” as you place your bid or raise your paddle for the selection of her ceramics that will be offered on November 18.
One of the most compelling aspects of her work is that it captures the contemporary sense of parallel time experiences. The incredible technological knowledge held by the makers of the past, ideas about what our future might look like, and the sometimes absurdity of the present moment. How can a tea pot or a sculpture do that? See for yourself.
We have provided links below to other videos and articles that will help round out the picture.
Also, I recently had a chance to chat with Michelle and here is what she had to say:
What gave you the inspiration to begin combining traditional techniques and contemporary commentary?
I think it was the process of discovery and my fascination with the idea that these ceramics, whether fragments unearthed in archeological excavations or preserved and treasured in museum collections, were portals through time. Understanding colonial era ceramics through the art of their recreation provided me a unique opportunity to connect the context of colonialism to our present moment.
What universal theme do you find most compelling as an idea to incorporate into your work?
I think I’m drawn to two parallel themes that run through ceramic history. One is ceramics as a global colonial commodity that was used to document historic events, communicate ideas in contemporary culture and fashion and advocate for social and political change. The other is ceramics that emulate the natural world and organize the unpredictability of nature and bring its beauty and menace safely into our homes and onto dinner tables.
How does your physical location inform your work?
I was born and raised in the colonial triangle of Virginia but it wasn’t until I graduated from William and Mary that my obsessive passion for clay as medium collided with what was literally beneath my feet in the place where I grew up. The wealth of colonial era archeological and Museum ceramic collections in this area have been an endless resource and inspiration in my art.
What is the project you wake up thinking about?
I think it’s the things that keep us all up at night that I always work to find an authentic voice in expressing -the universal concerns of humanity.