We first encountered Portland-based artist Michelle Blade through her paintings. We found them so rich, soulful and warm, often conjuring scenes that convey elements of wonder, while providing comfort at the same time.
Over time, we also began to take special notice of Michelle's beautiful ceramics, and dreamed of partnering with her on some coffee mugs. Last fall, to our delight, she accepted our proposal to collaborate on a line of mugs for us to enjoy at home and to make available through our online shop, so you can enjoy them, too!
We learned quick that we aren't the only fans of Michelle's work. Within 2 hours of our first Instagram post introducing them, we sold out of mugs (and then some). Since then, we've made the mugs available through a waitlist, which we are moving through at a steady pace every month!
At the beginning of the New Year, we decided to take a road trip north from LA to Portland. While in town, we were lucky enough to meet Michelle for coffee at her home. After making us some stovetop espresso, we walked through the backyard to her bright, cozy little studio—meeting her chickens along the way.
The studio is exactly the kind of space that inspires the creative in you. Over our hot cups of coffee, we got to talking about books, work/life balance, and life as an artist in Portland. We hope you enjoy the following q&a and photos from our morning!
What are your morning rituals? How do you like to start your days?
These days I’m typically up between 5:30- 6:30am. I light a fire, warm a bottle of milk for my youngest and make myself coffee. There is this lovely window that we share for an hour or so before the rest of the family is up and I’ve really come to love this time together. From there it’s a medley of getting everyone fed, dressed and out the door. Once I’ve dropped everyone off I head back to the studio and begin my day.
You’ve established what to many is a dream: a livelihood as an artist. First, what was your process in creating this way of life for yourself? Had you always felt you would be an artist?
I’m really thankful and privileged to live and work as an artist. I absolutely love it. But it was never a question I wanted to be one, it’s just always been who I am and how I’ve moved through the world ever since I was a child. Learning how to make this creative life fiscally viable came much later and that part is an ever evolving, creative process in itself.
Second, how does the “ideal” of being an artist compare to your reality? Are there qualities of practicing and creating on a consistent basis that are challenging?
Of course, there are challenges always. Knowing that the hard days are part of the process if just part of life. I think it’s important not to become addicted to harmony. It would be incredibly boring if there was no darkness along side the light because those moments are opportunities for growth and evolution.
Do you find your artistic practice to be grounding?
Incredibly. Besides being a mother it is the most powerful and guiding practice framing my life.
What are some of your favorite routines or activities outside of your craft? We imagine being a Mom takes up quite a bit of that time!
Luckily many of the activities I enjoy my kids like to do to. Hiking, gardening, yoga, and even just getting out for a family walk are staples that really nourish us all. In my independent time, when I’m not working, my favorite thing to do is sit at a cafe with a sketchbook, draw or make lists, and just let my mind wander.
Clearly, we’re big fans of your ceramics. We learned from you that it came about almost as an afterthought to your painting! Could you tell us that story?
Ceramics for me began out of a need to play and disconnect from my painting practice. I felt blocked and thought working in another medium would free things up and it did. I found so much joy in working in such a different capacity; the pressure was off and it felt good to be a beginner. Since then about five year have sat and I’ve learned so much but I’m still very much a beginner. I’ve realized a lot of engaging with clay as a medium is a very slow burn. You have to be patient and go slow. And that’s a really lovely and at times hard reality check since I tend to work very fast and loose when I’m painting.
As a creative professional who is their own boss, how do you balance the left & right sides of the brain when running your business?
Luckily my left and right side seem to move pretty fluidly and I enjoy both sides for what they bring to the table.