Michele Xiaoyun Fan is a self-taught ceramic artist based in New York. In 2015, she established her brand Atelier F Ceramics. Her works embody simplicity and grace and carry her hope of bringing some kindness and serendipity to life through clay, a humble material. We recently caught up with her for our Artist of the Week feature.
Q: Where are you from, where are you currently based and for how long?
I was born and raised in China. I came to the U.S. for school and it's been 11 years since I moved to New York City.
Q: How long have you been making your art?
I studied Photography and Art History in grad school and was a photographer in my early 20s. The first time ceramics came into my life was in 2013. There was a pottery studio called Mud Sweat and Tears on the corner of 10th Avenue and 45th Street in Midtown Manhattan. I passed by this studio everyday on the way home. The handmade quality of the mugs and vases just attracted me so much, so I thought why not make something for myself. I ended up joining a beginner throwing class on the weekends. My first teacher was called Patricia and she introduced me to all the essentials of throwing a good pot. I've honed my skills at several studios since then and now I'm a member at BKLYN CLAY.
Q: What materials do you use?
Ceramics is my major medium. I sometimes use paint, fabric and mirrors on my ceramic work.
Q: What's your inspiration?
I seek inspiration from fragments of memories and daily life. Maybe it's because of my photography background, but I see scenes that move me and carve them in my head. Then I turn them into my works, so they are very personal. For example, dumplings are very important in Chinese culture. I came from a big family and every Lunar New Year, my family would sit together and make hundreds of dumplings. My dad made the dough, my uncles rolled them into round pieces and my aunts, cousins and I would put in the fillings. My mom was usually in charge of boiling them. To me and many Chinese, dumplings are a symbol of family reunion. So I made ceramic dumplings to express my homesickness. When I see them, I see home.
Since my daughter was born I've been doing a lot of thinking about women. What kind of woman do I want to be in my children's eyes? What kind of person do I wish my daughter would grow up to be? How do we embrace our femininity? I'm at an early stage of exploring sculptures. It's a great satisfaction to turn my thinking process into a 3D object. I recently made a pair of red ceramic shoes. They recalled the memory of me as a little girl who wanted those shoes that never fit. It's about desire, awkwardness and self-realization.