Michael Sherrill | Incandescent Bottles
Michael Sherrill

born 1954
Resides in Hendersonville, North Carolina

Biography           Statement           Ask the Artist
Michael Sherill received a visual arts fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council in 1992. His work is in several major collections, including the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina. He's been making pots for more than 20 years. Originally, his work was completely functional, but it has evolved into work that is now wholly sculptural.

He has had solo exhibitions at the Western Carolina University in Cullowee, North Carolina, Wofford College, in Spartanburg, South Carolina and Sun-Up Gallery in Westerly, Rhode Island.


The work I do now was developed out of the interest in the things I see around me and the way those things stir and involve me.

When this work was first shown, I found that the viewer was drawn into it by the need to understand exactly what he or she was seeing. Viewers interacted with the work by having to figure out if what they perceived at first glance was actually what sat in front of them. This process stimulated them to question their visual impressions as well as to question me about the actual mechanics of making the object. I hope that my work offers a respite from the many visual "assaults" of our modern world. I am often overwhelmed by the complexities of the present day, the hectic pace at which we must run to keep up, and the constant difficulties we must overcome simply to survive from day to day.

I think the result of what I am doing stimulates the viewer to be inquisitive about what the eye is seeing. At the same time, the object itself is defined by its simplicity and straightforwardness.

Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

My ideas are influenced by the forms I see around me, most of which are very common man made objects. When I can, I visit museums and find certain influences to be stimulating--particularly Etruscan. I am usually impressed by forms that are exquisitely simple. At this point, my work generates itself. Almost before a piece is finished I have thought about taking it to a new place, whether in form or decoration. Often I will sketch a piece and it could be weeks, or months, before I can work out the idea in clay. When I'm pushing hard in the studio I might have a series of pots that all emerge at the same time. One or two of those pieces will usually lead to several ideas.

Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?

I work alone.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

I teach workshops and I have had apprentices.

What's the most exciting part of creating your works?

Being able to realize a vision; to take an idea or concept and bring it to life.

What's the most difficult part of creating your works?

The most difficult part of what I do is working under deadlines!

What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?

My current work is fired in an electric kiln. Recently, I bought a kiln computer to regulate my firings. I allows me greater control of the temperature and the firing process. When I began making pots, I was firing in a gas kiln, making slat glazed ware. Traditionally, kilns are fueled with wood. Wood, gas, electricity all produce different effects.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

My first kiln had a 50% success rate, and it never actually fired up to temperature. Don't give up. Persevere.

Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?

Don't look at too many magazines.

Invest time developing your skills. When you have a skill your personal style will develop from it.

Have confidence in your vision, and don't worry about what is popular.

Put everything in your studio on wheels, it's easier to clean or rearrange.

A clay teacher once told me never to use a non-clay tool on clay. I've spent most of my life breaking that rule.

I make almost all of my tools.

The junk yard is a great place to shop.

Persevere, persevere!

What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?

When you see my work on Internet instead of in person, you don't have a true perception of volume. My work sometimes appears to be two dimensional, although it is certainly three dimensional. In fact, the pieces are flattened. The bottles are about three inches deep and the teapots are between five and seven inches. In person, you get a better sense of the positive and negative space and the way that light helps to define the color or shape of a piece.

Lincoln Seitzman Michael Shuler