If you’re in the market for meaningful plateware, bowls, or simply a new favorite coffee mug, Michelle Crowe is a local potter worth keeping an eye on. Her ceramic creations are elegant yet functional tributes to the lush nature of the Pacific Northwest.
“I make wheel-thrown and altered stoneware pottery,” Crowe says. “I paint on the pots building up layers of colored slip, stains, or underglazes. I also carve and use sgraffito techniques to add texture and movement.”
Crowe has been a potter since the age of 13, and she draws on methods from her background in printmaking and watercolor. Even after obtaining a degree in graphic design and illustration, she found herself circling back to working with her hands. After school, however, Crowe landed in an artistic rut that stretched on for years.
“I stopped making stuff for a while,” she says. “I wasn’t creating, wasn’t making art. I was really stagnant. And I don’t know if it was being in Seattle in the city or what, but I knew I had to make a change.”
This slump, albeit disheartening, had a huge silver lining: It was the catalyst for moving back to Bellingham, where Crowe had gone to school. Once settled, she dove headfirst into her artistic practice by establishing herself in the local pottery community and taking classes at the Jansen Art Center. Crowe also found a job with Blue Water Pottery– until her employers gave her the “gentle push” to pursue a business of her own.
In retrospect, Crowe thinks the choice to make Bellingham her home was the best decision she’s ever made. She has been working consistently as a potter for more than four years, and three of those years have been spent building her small business. The scenery in the North Sound region serves as a major influence, and motifs such as mountains, flowers, trees, and water appear frequently in her work.
“I like keeping things simple and clean, but then adding that kind of little extra element to it,” Crowe says.
Using techniques ranging from watercolor majolica to relief carving, Crowe renders the natural world in an understated yet vivid manner. She has an eye for color, and even her more abstract scenes are likely to feel familiar to those who call the North Sound region home. During the summer markets, her work is popular among visitors who want something to remember Bellingham by.
“I just feel absolutely blessed to be able to live in Bellingham all the time. My studio currently is down on the working waterfront here,” Crowe says. “I can head down to the water, catch a sunset, or look out my window to watch a boat being worked on.”
Crowe is a member of Whatcom Artists of Clay and Kiln (WACK), and part of her inspiration comes from being surrounded by a supportive community of artisans. She regularly shows her wares at the Bellingham Farmers Market and Valley Made Market.
To purchase Crowe’s work or find more information about her market schedule, visit her online or on Instagram at @crowepotter. Bellingham, crowepotter.com