Michele Quan

Full Bio

From Michele:

"I make ceramic art & objects for the home and garden. The pieces become a canvas for my love of drawing, painting, text and color. Many of the objects and images are rooted in the visual symbols of Eastern iconography- their meaning and beauty of which I am continuously in awe. 

Impermanence & interconnection are ideas that I return to often, drawing inspiration from the writings and teachings of Buddhism and it’s extensive visual language. I understand the meanings to be universal and independent of religious attachments.

Clay forms are hand built or thrown on the wheel and all images are hand painted. The work is then fired in a gas kiln to 2350 degrees. Other materials used include hand-dyed cotton, hemp rope and reclaimed wood.

Alongside the ceramics is a small collection of sterling silver and 18K gold jewelry- ‘The Eye, The Sun, The Moon and The Stars’. Eyes & stars radiate with engraved lines. Crescent moons and stars are set with white or earth-toned rosecut diamonds and tiny turquoise cabochons reflecting ‘the ocean in the sky’.

A First Nations artist once said to me ‘Everything we need to know is in the sky’ and sometimes when you look at the sky it can cut straight down to the bone. It is this moment, in the midst of it all, that I try to convey. My hope is that my work serves both as objects of contemplation and as a source of encouragement, inspiring reverence... but a little irreverence can go a long way- and don’t forget the rock n’ roll..."

MQuan Studio from Bobby Fisher on Vimeo.



The process, together with the materials, give the work it’s depth and hum. Colors, sizes and shapes will vary from piece to piece, and no two pieces are exactly alike, so please take that into consideration when purchasing. I strive for consistency in replicating the work while simultaneously embracing unique qualities, beautiful wobbles and gifts the kiln and our hands may bring.


Making: All the work is either built by hand or thrown on a wheel.

Drying: Because clay shrinks about 6% as it dries (and another 6% while firing), all of the components of a single piece, large & small or thick & thin, must dry evenly to prevent cracking and minimize warping. To ensure even drying there is a lot of ‘babysitting’ (propping, flipping, covering etc). This step cannot be rushed and large pieces can take several weeks to dry while flat pieces must be watched carefully to ensure the air gets to the both sides evenly or warping will occur.

White Surface: When the pieces are completely dry (called greenware) they are in their most fragile state. The clay body I use fires to a toasty brown, and at this point it is dipped & painted with multiple layers of a white clay-based material that is mixed at the studio.

Bisque Firing: The work is then bisque-fired in an electric kiln to 1725 degrees. The bisque firing is a 3 day cycle and when finished, the work is still fragile, but strong enough to handle, glaze and paint.

Painting & Glazing: Interiors of some pieces are glazed. Then sketching & painting of images on all the pieces.

Glaze Firing: Once the work is painted and/or glazed it is loaded into the gas kiln and fired to 2350 degrees. Gas firings are a 4 day cycle. i.e If we load Monday the kiln pilots overnight, fires Tuesday, cools Wednesday and unloads on Thursday.

Assembly: Rope ends are cut, whipped & assembled, wall hangings are knotted together, knockers are assembled, etc etc. 

Packing & Shipping: We try to be as eco-friendly in the studio wherever possible. Starch peanuts are used for ALL shipping & cardboard is recycled at the studio. Bubble wrap is our friend & foe, pink tape is eye candy.


Clay: Stoneware & Porcelain

Images: All images are painted by hand with glaze and/or underglaze 

Rope: Bells are assembled with 7’ of hemp rope, XL with 10’ of hemp rope. Birdhouses 8’. Rope ends are bound with waxed whipping twine

Twine: PLT’s, Curtains & Wall Hangings are knotted with heavy duty waxed whipping twine

Cotton Cord: Waxed cotton cord made in the USA is used to assemble Ornaments

Wood: All wood components are hand crafted of reclaimed (when available) Walnut or White Oak in Brooklyn NY & Cincinnatti OH

Iron: All iron components are handmade in the U.S. 

Fabric: 100% Cotton fabric tassels are hand dyed and assembled in house

The clay body is an East Coast stoneware with plenty of grog and iron that is fired to Cone 10 (2350 Degrees) in an atmospheric gas reduction firing. In it’s raw state it fires to a deep toasty brown.

From wet clay to it's final fired state the stoneware shrinks about 12% as the water, both material and chemical, dissipate and the clay molecules melt & fuse together. During this process there is a lot of movement the forms can bend and warp.  

Grog, which looks like sand, is clay that has been fired, ground up and re-wedged into the clay. Adding it creates ‘tooth’ allowing the clay to ‘stand up’ better during building and aids to reduce warping & cracking while drying and shrinking. Visually, I love the way it enhances the ‘stone-like’ texture and feel. Sometimes you will see small blow-outs from the grog after the piece is bisque-fired. This is a regular occurrence in my work and we paint and glaze fire only the blow-outs that we find acceptable and that do not detract from the piece.
During an atmospheric firing the air is cut off from the flame so it looks for oxygen within the clay body and draws out the iron turning it to a dark toasty brown. It is the combination of the toasty brown clay body with the applied white clay surface that creates the depth and variation of color of the work. This is not a ‘flat surface’ and the application of the white clay, brush strokes & dipping overlays, are enhanced in the gas firing as the stoneware turns a deep toasty color. Dark spots are from iron that has melted and risen to the surface. Color variations can happen not only from kiln to kiln but within one kiln load depending on where the work was placed in the kiln.

All of these Wink Dishes were fired in the same kiln, but fired in different areas:

AUM Or OM Represents the indivisible, indestructible, primal essence of all and everything. Hindus believe that as creation began, the divine, all-encompassing consciousness took the form of the first and original vibration manifesting as sound "OM". Bells are an homage to the Present through sound. In Tibetan Buddhism the bell represents the principle of the ‘perfection of wisdom’, which directly realizes emptiness. ‘Time is a slippery fish’ ROBERT FRANK Bones ‘You don’t have to abandon things because there is something destructive in them. There is the Buddhist story of the arhat, one of the Buddha’s disciples with self-realization, who goes to the charnel ground, a burial ground in India. There he picks up one human bone, and he ponders that. He sees that a bone comes from death, and death comes from birth, and birth comes from desire, and so on and so on. Finally he works out the whole chain of causality from this one bone. We could work in the same way in our own situation. We don’t have to reject or abandon anything. We could work on the creative aspect of situations.’ CHOGYAM TRUNGPA ‘Live your life, life your life, live your life’ MAURICE SENDAK Chain Links At the heart of compassion is the vision of the inseparability of all existence UNKNOWN. Where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center or our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world JOSEPH CAMPBELL. The We of Me CARSON MCCULLERS Eyes "We don't need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much." ROBERT WALSER These Eyes are about looking deeply even if it is not convenient. Made of converging lines radiating inward and out, representing our self and our collective universal self. In Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology, peacock feathers were considered much like the eye, they were all-seeing. ‘And the trick is to stay propped up for 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 or 90 years. Yes eyes open while the flies get stuck in the paper and the great paintings are stolen and the faithful wives run off with the unfaithful lovers, all to die in the morning, unclasped and cold and kissless’. CHARLES BUKOWSKI Flower, Disc & Feather Bone Wall Hangings were created out of process. The raw, spontaneous, fresh imprint of a fingerprint made in clay. Garlands are an offering of reverence to the world. Made originally to hang in trees, I imagined them becoming part of the landscape, and how beautiful they could be, moving in the wind, with the ever-changing background. Holyforgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering! magnanimity! Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul! ALLEN GINSBERG Love Fearlessly. You've got love to burn NEIL YOUNG Jewels and Quartz ‘Like a wish-granting gem that refracts myriad rays of rainbow light, the nature of the light is one; although it’s aspects of illumination appear to be many.’ ROBERT BEER The Mirror is an ancient Buddhist symbol for clarity, completeness of perception, and purity of consciousness. ‘I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. What ever you see I swallow immediately just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.’ SYLVIA PLATH Mono No Aware A Japanese term pointing to the awareness of impermanence and the beautiful sadness of things passing. ‘Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world’ JOSEPH CAMPBELL. “Hey let’s go shovel snow into the well!” ‘Because Without the bitter there would be no sweet’. Impermanence and interconnection, cherry blossoms and fireflies, stars, clouds, and the phases of the moonOm Mani Padme Hum is the six syllable Sanskrit mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion known in India as Avalokiteshvara and in Tibet as Chenezrig. It is one of the most widely used Buddhist mantras and is carved into stones, put onto prayer wheels and printed on prayer flags. The mantra is difficult to translate into a simple phrase, but is often seen as ‘Om The Jewel in the Lotus Hum’. ‘the six syllables, OM MANI PADME HUM, mean that in dependence on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. THE DALAI LAMA The Sun, The Moon & The Stars The night sky. The Finger pointing at the moon is not the moon ZEN KOAN. If you don’t strive for it at all, if you don’t fill it full of stars and falseness CHARLES BUKOWSKI. Looking out the westward window, I saw it: a fat yellow disk in an even slate-blue background, hanging motionless over the city. I found myself marveling at Earth’s good fortune in having a moon so large and so beautiful ISAAC ASIMOV. God, the sun the Moon and the stars, everything in motion. PATTI SMITH Skulls Whether we die enmeshed within our hopes and fears or free ourselves by recognizing the selfless luminosity of our innermost being, impermanence lies at the heart of all existence. In illness or in health, in life or death, the body is the greatest teacher of impermanence. Praise to the wrathful mother who tramples on the enemies of complacency and self-deception. UNKNOWN Sphere of Radiance. ‘Close both eyes; see with the other one. Then, we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgements, our ceaseless withholding, our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened, and we find ourselves, quite unexpectedly, in a new, expansive location, in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love’. GREGORY BOYLE TARA is a Bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is a protector who comes to relieve us of physical, emotional and spiritual suffering. ‘As Avalokiteshvara, the great compassionate one, looked upon the sorrows of the world, his tears formed a lake in which a lotus sprung up. When the lotus opened, the goddess Tara was revealed’. Her seed syllable is tāṃ is and the full mantra, OM TARA TUTTARE SVAHA Whale Teeth & Tusks ‘NONE OF THIS WOULD HAPPEN IF PEOPLE COULD SEE IT’ Wrathful Weapons and implements have their origins in the wrathful arena of the battlefield and the funereal realm of the charnel grounds. As primal images of destruction, slaughter, sacrifice these weapons were wrested from the hands of the evil and turned- as symbols- against the ultimate root of evil, the self-cherishing conceptual identity that gives rise to the five poisons of ignorance, desire, hatred, pride and jealousy. In the hands of deities these implements become pure symbols, weapons of transformation and an expression of the deities wrathful compassion which mercilessly destroys the manifold illusions of the inflated human ego. ROBERT BEER The Daggers are made in honor to Manjushri, the Boddhisattva of Wisdom who holds the flaming sword of discriminating wisdom that cuts through ignorance and the entanglements of conceptual views. It cuts away ego and self-created obstacles. It can cut into two, but it can also cut into one, by cutting the self/other dichotomy.Vision is sometimes a terrible thing. Ideas are easy to come by, they spring effortlessly out of the vacuity of the mind and cost nothing. When they are held and projected onto one’s self or others they become a project. When the project is enacted it becomes the work, and when the work is completed it appears to be self-existent. Creation is the process of form manifesting from emptiness, where that which arises from the mind comes into existence. Yet the distance between conception and realization may be enormous, as vast as the distance between stars. ROBERT BEER Oh, I'm lookin' for my missin' piece I'm lookin' for my missin' piece Hi-dee-ho, here I go lookin' for my missin' piece SHEL SILVERSTEIN YES! YOKO ONO