American Made Show: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you arrived where you are today.
Michael Terra: My family background is the classic American tale of immigrants coming from the ‘old country’ for a better life, having kids who then had kids… meaning me! I was raised in an atmosphere that included several generations and many inspiring artistic personalities with talents in music, painting and language arts. Through a conspiracy of circumstance that put Victoria (my wife of 28 years) in my path in a pliant moment, I have had the privilege of being a husband and also a father (twice).
AMS: Describe the path that led to your career as an artist.
Michael Terra: I really had no choice but to become an artist of one stripe or another… I was educated as a scientist with a background in things like Bio-physics and Psychology, but was not particularly suited to working in the isolation of a lab. I also was not attracted to the administrative aspect of academia (too many meetings) and so did many other things.
Through all of it, I was making art… that was the ”thru-line” of the story. After a work accident that crushed two discs in my neck, my wife encouraged me to go full-time and we haven’t looked back for the last couple of decades.
AMS: What does the creative process entail for you?
Michael Terra: Lots of observation first.
Lots of letting it all steep.
Lots of allowing it to sort itself out.
Lots of starting and being lead by the unfolding of it.
Lots of harsh assessment of the results and refinement.
Lots of vulnerability as I expose the work to criticism.
Lots of refinement until it’s ‘done’…
AMS: What inspires you to create new designs?
Michael Terra: I just can’t help myself… I keep noticing things and then thinking about them and then finding the connections and then… plop! A new idea!
AMS: Tell us about the technical processes you employ in your work.
Michael Terra: I am a sculptor in the old school. I use no molds at all, very few tools that I don’t carve myself and virtually no machines to make my work. Mostly just hands in the clay. That being said, my work is technically advanced as I work with stoneware and yet have extraordinarily thin walls to my vessels. I use words and the comprehension of language as one of the elements of my work and so there is an enforced elegance to the composition of the poems that is also a feature of what i do.
AMS: How would you describe your artistic style?
Michael Terra: Thoughtful and whimsical- at the same time- with a healthy dash of humor and respectful irreverence. In short: Emotionally engaging ceramic art.
AMS: What type of customers tend to like your work?
Michael Terra: My typical customer has at least one of the following qualities (besides money):
Sense of humor
Willingness to keep looking at an object to find/see more.
Smart folks… I do really well in any place big enough to have a Museum, University or major medical facility.
AMS: What is your most popular product line?
Michael Terra: Currently the Reading Glasses are the runaway along with the Postcards from the Inside. I made over 2000 Reading Glasses last year and nearly 1000 of the postcards. The Squints (the little faces) always do well and I have people who have been collecting them for a decade!
AMS: Do you have any big announcements or plans in the near future?
Michael Terra: Along with the ‘small wares’ that I make, I also work on large sculptural pieces! We are actually building a new studio with a huge new kiln that will allow me to fire single items that are up to 10 feet tall!