Intuitive painter and ceramicist Michelle Blade creates with the magic of the natural world around her — inspiration comes in the whispers of flowers, on the wings of honey bees and the backs of slow moving garden snails. Michelle’s artful ceramic pieces, aptly named Good Kind Work, depict a gentle simplicity and evoke a folkloric sense of wonderment — every beautiful, hand painted piece tells its own unique story.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Michelle Blade, I’m a native Angeleno, a mother, a painter and ceramicist.
What came first, painting or ceramics?
For the majority of my life painting has been my heart song. It’s how I connect to the world and make sense of being alive. About 7 years ago, alongside my first pregnancy, I took a ceramics class to open up my practice and found something really rewarding. Now I exhibit my paintings and run a ceramics business full time.
How did your love for painting begin? Were either of your parents artists?
Neither of my parents are artists but both of them have creative and unique spirits. They encouraged me from a young age to make art and signed me up for any classes I wanted, which I took from elementary school through Grad school. I’m not sure where the actual seed for art began, perhaps somewhere in the stars because it’s always been there, but growing up within a very entrepreneurial family gave me the work ethic to stick with it and for that I am extremely thankful.
How did you evolve into ceramics?
After living in the Bay Area for almost a decade I moved back to LA and I found myself experiencing a painting block. I had also just found out I was pregnant and felt pulled to work more physically since I was so aware of my body. I signed up for a class and really got into the process. It was frustrating becoming a beginner and I still feel like one to this day.
Do you have a similar approach to your ceramics as you do with your paintings?
The two modes of working couldn’t be more different. With ceramics I have immediacy, a task to complete in one sitting, and a team to collaborate with. With painting it’s more like therapy and prayer.
What’s your process, intention, and feeling when you begin to create a painting?
My intention is to create work that highlights the underlying benevolence of life. I want to capture life’s beauty with all it’s darkness and light. When I’m working on a painting and I’m in a flow state it feels like surfing the astral plane. If it’s been a good day painting often feels more collaborative because I’ve left part of myself at the door and opened things up to intuition and chance.
Why did you name your ceramic company “Good Kind Work”?
When the ceramics started to gain traction and become a business I started referring to it as “good kind work” because the work just felt good and kind. It was exactly the kind of day job I was seeking to create for myself and it’s my goal to keep it that way. I want the work, and my team, to feel of value.
Is there a different source of inspiration with your ceramics?
A lot of my inspiration often comes from nature and that’s true for both ceramics and painting. Visually it gets embodied in different ways but the act of paying homage to the land is a theme that runs through both.
I love the story of how the “Gardener” came to fruition in your ceramics, can you share that inspiring moment?
A few years back I was living in Portland and experienced my first PNW Spring. After 6 grey months the flowers started popping up it blew my mind. It was like a symphony building to a crescendo and I started to paint all of them. I was in love and wanted to capture it all. That’s what eventually became the Gardener’s Mug. Over time the whole floral narrative came together with the butterfly, snail, gardener, snake and sometimes my backyard chickens.
There’s a simplicity and fluidity to all your Good Kind Work pieces, watching you paint these pieces feels very meditative, is this the intention?…to keep it within a certain aesthetic and function?
Thank you. I’m not sure if the intention to portray a meditative state has been leading me but I do feel like making the work feels that way, so perhaps that comes across.
Do the beautiful creatures you paint have a special meaning to you? the snail, the butterfly, the snake, and the various flowers?
Yes, this cast is on homage to the beloved characters in my garden.
How do you feel about seeing your artwork hand block printed on regenerative cotton and made into the dress you’re wearing?
Seeing the layered print technique was such a joy to see. I couldn’t be happier with how it all came together.
You are a mother of two girls, do they get to enjoy your studios and express their creativity?
Yes, my girls are often in the studio working by my side on their own projects. Sometimes we are painting and other times they are working on their own ceramic projects. I’m partial but their work is always my favorite and I decorate my of my studio with it. We collaborate often and have made most of our dishes and cups we use at home. Other times their drawings inspire my paintings.
What do you do for self care with two businesses and two children? Any rituals or daily practices?
I really love running. After working all day in the studio and being in such a cerebral place the physical action of pounding the pavement grounds me deep into my body and helps me feel balanced. At this point it’s safe to say I’m an endorphin junkie.
After I run, when I have a quiet moment to myself and I’m fully exhausted, my favorite thing to do it sit with a cup of coffee and draw. It’s my way of transcribing memories from my life, processing emotions and capturing the seasons. It sounds like more work but it’s more akin to writing some really embarrassing poetry in a diary. It’s where all the richness get stored.
How do you Honor Mother Earth?
Reflecting my love for her into my work and in my garden.