Michelle Wen


The Arts: Artistic {Re}treats

Art After Dreaming

Michelle Wen, ceramist and multi-disciplinary artist, began to produce art with a heightened fervor after losing her father to COVID earlier this year. We were keen to see this artist’s progress as she branched out into new art forms in 2020.

You remained active in social media throughout the pandemic, despite experiencing the personal loss you shared with your following. What sustained you during this time, with most of your usual social and teaching activities on pause?

Michelle: The pandemic flipped my whole world upside down. My entire family was infected with COVID-19, and my father died after a month in ICU. I felt that being at home, confronted with the needs of my family, just fueled my desire to work harder, work smarter, and expand my artistic creativity. The reality of death and the world transforming, for better or for worse, motivated me. When you are stuck at home without physical freedom, you are, in a sense, given a mental freedom to push yourself to do things you thought you never had time to do. Thus, I created content on Instagram that was educational, expanding the network of people I can connect with, inspire, or just share art with.

Michelle teaching at Mouse Ceramic Studios, New York. Photo courtesy of Michelle Wen.

Zine: What about your old routines do you miss, and what changes brought about by the pandemic do you want to keep?

Michelle: I miss my students. I miss being in a social interactive space in which I can share the joy of ceramics. I took this quarantine time as an opportunity to better my own skills in my personal studio so that I can be an even better teacher and artist when I see them again. The changes that I would like to keep: dedication to personal work and feeling rejuvenated by curiosity. Pottery has been a form of utilitarian craft for me. Recently, I’ve tried so many new things which resulted in personal work that feels more meaningful.

Zine: In the past, you offered classes at outside studios, and you recently shared footage of your attendance at Brooklyn protests. As an active member of your community, how do you want to engage with your audience/customers differently post-pandemic?

Michelle: For a long time, I kept my political views and personal life out of Instagram. I never liked to show my face, never spoke about things outside of pottery. However, the world demands change, and we are responsible for that. We are responsible for using our voices, and as my platform grows I feel that it should not be a channel of escapism, but one that confronts our reality through education and conversation. My dream has always been teaching in local communities, and I feel that post-pandemic, I want to immediately focus on that.

Zine: You started painting again not long after your father’s death, stating he was a painter as well. How are your artistic output and community efforts affected by this devastating event?

Michelle: I channel absolutely 100% of my grief into productivity. Death opened my eyes on how to live life to the fullest.

“The Lake” (2020) oil painting by the artist. Photo by Michelle Wen.


Zine: The following is the last paragraph of the writing you shared in your post titled Dreams of My Father: “The last dream I had about my father before he passed is foggy. He was in the living room, with darker hair instead of silver hair, and a striped blue shirt. I rejoiced that he was home, hugging and kissing and embracing him warmly. He said he is finished, he is no longer sick. He had recovered, a bit weak, but finally home.” What do you think prompted this dream?

Michelle: The hospital did not allow any visits. I was desperately trying to find a way to communicate with him, so I tried to find him in the dream world.

  We were only able to visit when the doctor told us all his organs were failing. We didn’t get to see him the night he passed. The dreams gave me some closure, because I prefer remembering the Dad from my dreams, than the person in the hospital bed.

Zine: You’ve kept very busy with ceramics sales, activism and personal art throughout all of this. Can you tell us a little about what your teaching schedule was like before COVID, and how you to plan to harness your skills as an instructor in your community going forward?

Michelle: I normally teach at Mouse Ceramic Studio in Brooklyn and Sculpture Space NYC in Long Island City.* Classes are usually once a week, and semesters are between 6 and 12 weeks. COVID-19 has revealed all the ways our system has failed us. That motivated me to do my part in changing the world, one person at a time. I want to start a youth mentoring program, one-on-one, in my personal studio once the lockdown is over.

Zine: For those of us who follow your ceramics videos, how can readers buy your product, and do you make custom (made-to-order) items?

Michelle: You can shop on my website or email me for commissions. Usually everything on my Instagram is available for sale – just message me on Instagram! Sometimes I do flash sales as well.

Zine: Lastly, tell us more about the ways you are staying connected to students in the absence of the physical spaces where you would normally teach?

Michelle: With all the isolation and wariness, it’s important not to get too out of touch – in both personal relationships and society as a collective. We must actively find ways to develop connections with people and stay relevant in each other’s lives.

Teaching has been a wonderful way for me to maintain those connections and feel human. I recently began offering video commissions where I film in-depth solutions/tutorials with fully narrated instructions and send the video file to a client. The videos are shot close-up with step by step explanations. This way, they can save the file and play it back. Then I provide feedback on photos of the pottery they’ve created. It’s a low risk way to teach, while still offering one-to-one attention.

*At the time of this interview, Mouse Ceramic Studio and Sculpture Space NYC were closed for an extended period of time due to COVID.

Michelle frequently holds fundraisers on her Instagram, where she takes items from her body of work and sells them to the public, donating 100% of the proceeds to charity. Follow her on social media to read about the causes she champions.


Workshops and the zine are organized by Slow + Sustain through the volunteer efforts of our contributors. Funding comes from both the contributors and the public.

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