Q&A with Ceramicist Mich Mellow, “1000 Grams of Likes” Trophy Designer

A sense of playfulness pervades the work of Pretoria-born ceramicist Mich Mellow, who graduated cum laude with a fine and applied art degree from the Tshwane University of Technology. In 2017 she moved to Cape Town and soon after launched her studio, Okay Now – taking on commissions (the more complicated the better!) and creating gorgeous ceramic pieces of her own design. As the artist selected to sculpt the “1000 Grams of Likes” trophies for our Instagram Heroes awards series this year, we got to know her a little better.

Tell us a bit about your creative background and what led to your life as a ceramicist. 

I studied fine and applied art at the Tshwane University of Technology specializing in ceramics and sculpture. This course was more technical than the other fine art courses offered by local universities and empowered me by giving me the skills to make pretty much anything and I am so grateful for that. I went on to work in a couple of sculpture studios and bronze foundries where I learned even more about how to work in 3D, but my goal was always to get back to making ceramics. So when I was offered a job in Cape Town to manage a ceramic studio for a large corporate I could not say no. Since moving here I have met so many wonderful ceramists and artists and had the opportunity to get back to the medium that I love while still learning so much a long the way. After spending a couple of years working for other creatives and only making my work once in a while as a studio resident at Clay Hands in Woodstock I decided to find my own studio and have been working freelance on my own work and commissions since January 2021 in a small studio in town.

What do you enjoy most about working with clay?

I enjoy the freedom and versatility that clay offers, it can do almost anything and look like almost anything. I also love the challenge of clay and figuring out how to make the piece you want to make. I like to take on complicated commissions purely so that I can figure out the “how” and afterwards be a more skilled ceramist. 

What does your process typically entail?

Do you work with clear forms in mind from the start or does it unfold more spontaneously? I often have days and nights where my mind is full ideas, I’ll write them down and then do sketches and then explore the ideas further in clay after which things can change and unfold more organically.

What are some of the things you’re influenced and inspired by?

I am very inspired by my fellow ceramists and the way they approach clay, everyone has such a unique voice. I also like to use humor and wordplay in my pieces, growing up bilingual has made me pay more attention to words and the way they are understood depending on who reads them. I am very inspired by playfulness in art and I like to bring that into my own work.

Who are the South African artists you’d most love to collaborate with? 

I would love to collaborate with illustrators or even painters in creating interesting vases or even smaller works. Currently the creatives that I would love to collaborate with are my friends: Nanna Venter, Danielle Hitchcock (Printprintprintclub) and Jean de Wet. They all have such diverse styles that I would love to see translated into clay. I would also love to collaborate with some creatives from Johannesburg such as Karabo Poppy Moletsane and Seth Pimentel, their strong graphic styles would be so beautiful on ceramic pieces. I also have a strong love for Joburg and feel so inspired whenever I go to visit.

Shifting gears somewhat, tell us about the concept behind your Instagram Heroes trophy.

For this trophy I was inspired but the “hot” reaction emoji on Instagram 🔥 because in my opinion it is the best reaction you can give to express that you think something is Fire, and the Instagram heroes are all fire.

Are you working on any other interesting or exciting projects at the moment?

Yes! I am currently working with Lucie De Moyencourt (Shellegance) on a beautiful shell inspired vase. I have made the vase and we will be making about 20 of them which Lucie will paint in her beautiful colorful style. I am very excited to see the finished works.

Follow @okay.now.studio on Instagram… and stay tuned for the trophy reveal!

Photographs by Francois Taljaardt.

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