This is eggman. Eggman is one of my prized possessions. He was badly injured in my great shelving collapse (and I call myself an architect) of 2007, but I glued him back together. He's pretty damn dusty, but he looks great regardless.
Eggman is a fantastic piece of thrown, shaped and Raku-ed clay work by my friend and prolific Austin artist Michael Merritt. We met in architecture school. He was pressing an egg into a square in his egg press at lunch one day and I almost shit my pants I was laughing so hard at the whole spectacle. Great, my blog officially contains profanity now. Once he showed me how he could pop his eye out of his head and put it back in, I was officially fascinated.
I have several pieces of Mike's work scattered about, and shards of broken pieces of his work create the barrier at the edge of our fireplace to keep the logs from rolling out. At Mike's thesis show at a coffee shop in Saratoga Springs, NY in 1995 I had only enough money to buy the eggman, but he was also handing out cast-off pieces at his studio, so I stocked up.
Mike helped me make this piece I have hanging in our place, made from 39 Djarum clove tins:
He helped me by smoking lots and lots of cloves.
Here is some of Mike's current work. From a few years back, the tripod figure, coated in latex, inspired by water tower architecture. And from this year, he took his obsession with documenting Austin area graffiti (and I mean obsession) to a new level by integrating it with his pottery.
All images below property of Johnston Terrace and may not be reproduced without written permission from Johnston Terrace:
Mike's work, to me, is like a continuous thought that has kept evolving over time. The shapes and finishes have changed based on the source of inspiration, but I could look at any of these and say "Mike Merritt threw that".
I was so delighted when he sent me some conceptual sketches and helped me answer the question of where my eggman came from.
Q & A:
cb: Mike, send me some sketches of the pincers, like the ones on top of the eggman. Where did that idea come from? I loved the paintings you did in school of these two giant pincers pinching a ball.
MM: The pincers started in early sketches and paintings as a fumbling attempt at symbolism, with the ball being me and the abstracted hand being the unrequited love. That "being held between pincers" theme became enmeshed with another formal obsession, the skate egg casing, or as I later heard it referred to, a "mermaid's purse".
Sketch for early painting
"The pinchy family"
Later independent study work, still thinking about egg casings
There he is, coo coo ca choo
Fairly early in my clay education I was visiting my mom in Cape Cod and on that trip collected a bunch of mermaid's purses from the high tide line on the bay side. They are very intriguingly anthropomorphic and reminded me of my figure drawings which had been inspired by the outlined figure used to give human scale in architectural sections. I started to make a clay form inspired by the egg casings that was a thrown cylinder pinched closed on top and bottom to form a pillow form with tendril-like legs. Those pillow forms are what then morphed into the more anthropomorphic "eggmen".
cb: Why graffiti?
MM: Graffiti fascinates me because it seems like an analogous form to Asian calligraphy, the way letter forms are drawn obsessively, and with such strength of line.
Talk about full circle, the pottery becomes the graffiti. Is this meta?
cb: What am I missing between the time of eggman and the tripod, years later? It's pretty clear where your recent obsessions lie, but what were you doing in between the two?
MM: Between the eggmen and tripods was my big ass lady phase that almost killed me. I had a two person show of my small-top-big-bottomed ladies in 2002 that freaked me out and made me stop doing clay almost entirely for six or seven years.
A collection of some of Mike's earlier work. Pro.Li.Fic.
cb: Besides Spam cans and stuffed animals that have been left behind face down in the creek, what else have you/do you collect?
MM: I also collect homeless signs and fossils, particularly Exogyra Ponderosa, which I find in the creek beds around my house. I recently have been collecting railroad spikes.
Mike is everything I admire, and more. I find so much of his work beautiful, and one of a kind. Have you ever seen a piece of clay shaped and finished like the ones I've shown here? Probably not. And to top it off, he is prolific. That is something that means so much to me. That he never stops. There is always something going on, and it has to go on in bulk. I'd like to use my family as an excuse for not becoming prolific myself, but I don't think it was ever in me, and I envy it!
As I'm writing this, I am remembering one more installation Mike did at Skidmore, involving fertilizer, tabloid articles reporting on the O.J. Simpson trial, and a rented U-Haul truck parked on campus grounds. THAT is a post for another day, I'll have to follow up with Mike on that one.
Please check out more of Mike's work, combined with his collection of graffiti tag and water tower photography, on his tumblr.
Also, click here for his online shop.
I'll end with a few bonus sketches that I am honored to be able to include here.