The Artpace Teen Council is a nine-month, paid program designed for San Antonio area high school students (15–18 years old) to become advocates for contemporary art and young leaders in their community. Teen Council members work with Artpace staff and artists to develop teen programs, support Artpace events, and create community-based projects throughout the school year.
This year, Teen Council members will research and write an Artpace blog entry about the innovative art and artists that make up the thriving San Antonio community.
A Conversation with Michelle Hernandez of MEECHI Ceramics by Jacqueline Halldorsson
My mother is an avid collector of pottery, a hobby that has infiltrated the free space of every shelf and countertop in our home. Growing up, I was accustomed to a spectacle of artwork in even the most mundane of objects, eating pizza rolls off a dish that probably weighed more than me and passing out Halloween treats in bowls that were sweeter eye-candy than the chocolates they contained. Inheriting my mother’s interest, it is only fitting that I reach out to a local ceramicist for this blog post.
Allow me to introduce you to Michelle Hernandez, the mastermind behind MEECHI Ceramics. Her love for clay is homegrown, beginning when she registered for a ceramics class at the University of the Incarnate Word to fulfil a degree requirement, and continuing with enrollment in classes at the Southwest School of Art.
After a decade of an on-again-off-again relationship with the medium, she finally cemented her commitment through the creation of her small business, saying “The clay always tugged at my heart to come back, in a more permanent way. I like to say when you belong to clay it will let you know– and whether you are actively engaging in creating with clay or not, clay is always on your mind and will get you back somehow. For the last four years I have been able to be muddy year-around, and it feels so right!”
Hernandez embraces the quirks of the craft, finding a balance between “telling the clay what to do and listening to what the clay wants to do, in every moment.” This two-way relationship makes ceramics unique from other mediums, and encourages her love for the art. “On my good studio days I say, ‘I listened to the clay today. And the clay listened to me.’”
Her goal at MEECHI Ceramics is one I can get behind, as it was the reality of my childhood: to work beautiful, functional ceramic goods into people’s daily lives. On the intersection of practicality and art, she says “I think inviting practical and beautiful forms to enter into your daily rituals invites more beauty into your life, but also, I like to think that the lessons I have learned from clay are somehow held in each piece and then shared with those who use it, every time they use it. So, in that sense, the more functional the better.”
These aforementioned “lessons” allow Hernandez to deeply connect with her art and with herself. The pottery-making process is extensive and hands-on, requiring patience, attention, and non-attachment every step of the way. “I say clay will break you, but it will also build you back up. It is as if every piece I make on the wheel is a mini meditation or even therapy session. Each time I am in the studio working it is both sacred and playful.”
Her passion for ceramics has led her to the amiable and charming San Antonio pottery community. “Either I have met all the right people in the ceramics world here, or there is just an underlying energy of abundance in this clay community which creates a space where no one is selfish with their time or knowledge.” Eager to share their advice, stories, and even equipment, this network is just a small glimpse into a thriving San Antonio arts community, and an honest testament to good ol’ fashioned southern hospitality.
Like a lot of teenagers, I’m into pot– just not the kind you’re thinking of. My childhood soft spot motivates me to share the joy of ceramics with my community, and my conversation with Michelle Hernandez has only furthered my appreciation of the art. One of my greatest anticipations for adult life is starting a pottery collection like my mom’s– or better yet, pulling a Seth Rogen and picking up the craft for myself.
As Michelle would say, peace and pots, everybody.
You can find Michelle and her “Clay-bies” on Instagram at @meechiceramics or on her website meechiceramics.com.
Jacqueline Halldorsson is a junior at Johnson High School. This is Jacqueline’s first year participating in the Artpace Teen Council.
Images courtesy of the artist.