I instantly fell in love with these gigantic ceramic bells made by NYC artist Michele Quan and feel lucky for the opportunity to offer an extremely beautiful collection of Michele’s work at Ashes & Milk.
Each piece is built by hand and finished with beautifully refined glazes. They are suspended from a thick earthy hemp rope and some designs have a knocker made of reclaimed wood. Substantial both in size and weight, the hollow bell forms create a pleasant contemplative sound when touched.
Nikko Could you tell me a little about how you got started in ceramics and what drew you to this medium?
Michele Clay seems to have appeared at a few different times over the years. I moved to NY in 1984 and was interested in all kinds of crafty mediums and had huge ideas of loosely knitted layered objects and woven carpets with space/sky formations. I took a ceramics class at the 92nd street Y, and really enjoyed it. Never did it again but it fed my fantasy to have some kind of clay collective, which stayed alive in my head for a long time. I also loved jewelry and ended up starting a business with a friend which turned into 12 years and during that time I took another ceramics class in Brooklyn to liven up my hands and eyes. When my daughter was 14 months and racing around like a maniac I needed some ‘ME’ time and took a class at Greenwich House Pottery in the West Village- a great place for ceramics. I just kept increasing my time there till I couldn’t squirrel away anymore shelf space and then moved out to my studio now in East Williamsburg.
Clay is this tactile material that seems to draw some people in. I suppose it has me as well, but I really just like to work with my hands. I like the labor, I’m a great weeder.
Nikko I really love the organic shapes and large scale of your ceramic bells. What inspired you to make these and how do you construct them?
Michele I had some metal bells hanging on my studio door, and had just made a few in clay when Lori from Love, Adorned on Elizabeth Street asked if I wanted to do an installation and I immediately thought of many bells hanging overhead. It was about the spectacle and the sound- an homage to the Present.
The bells are built by hand starting with slabs or thrown on the wheel. The wooden knockers are made by an artist neighbor, Michael Miritello. He makes them out of scraps of beautiful wood he has laying around the studio.
Above Michele working on a piece while cuddling up her daughter Elsie
Nikko Outside of making art, is there anything else that defines you?
Michele Lots of stuff. And nothing really. I’”m sure there are still things that define me that I don’t even do anymore. Or even better yet, things I’ve never done but want to.
Above is a collection of Michele’s bells hung from a tree in Prospect Park, NYC.
[ Check out more of Michele's ceramic bells at Ashes & Milk. ]
Photographs courtesy of Michele Quan.