Artist Profile: Michela Verani by Julia Rai

I’ve known award winning artist Michela Verani for a while now, having first met her at a metal clay conference in the US. She and I share a love of sci-fi and we are also both participating in the metal clay Masters Registry programme so we have lots in common.Verani - Phoenix full necklace

Visitor to the studio1Michela lives in Londonderry, New Hampshire with her furry friends, a dog called Tolliver and a cat called Yang. “Tolliver is a Bouvier des Flandres and Yang is a dumpster kitty,” she explains. “My home is at the end of a dead end dirt road and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and my messy gardens.  Whenever I am at home Tollie and I take a daily walk in the woods.”

Michela was born and brought up in New Hampshire. Her mother was a sculptor. “She had three young daughters and very little time to create.  So, we got paints of clay and were given relatively free rein in her studio so she could work.”Michela Verani_Mosaic - Mikki & Tucker1

I asked Michela about her education. “I was an art major in college for a few years, but then graduated with a BS in Plant Science/Botany. My work has won many awards.  However, I think that my best qualifications are the quality of my work and that my students come back repeatedly for classes.”

She first discovered metal clay is an article in Ornament magazine. “I still have that issue,” she smiles. “It took me a couple of years to find an instructor, but once I took a class, I was hooked.  I loved its ability to be worked like the clay my mother had used in her studio.  I made an absolutely horrid pendant and earring set.  I still have that set and hand it around at beginner’s classes to show where one starts.”

winged creatures
Winged Creatures by M. Verani

Living where she does, it’s not surprising what her main influences are. “Mother nature herself, my gardens and woods are my main influences,” she told me. “A few artists I really admire are Jim Kelso, Janel Jacobsen and John Paul Miller.  All use nature as the subject of their work.  The quality of their work is amazing.  Art Nouveau is also a period whose work is important to me.” She describes her style as “naturalistic with a touch of whimsy.” This is obvious in her winged creatures series.

Michela still takes classes when she can. “I try to take at least a class a year. I don’t have a lot of free time for classes, so don’t take as many as I’d like.” I asked her if any of her teachers has influenced her work in a particular way. “I’m not sure that any teacher has ever had a noticeable influence on my work,” she says. “While the tips and techniques learned in a class are important, I think that my style has stayed true to me no matter who I’ve taken classes with.”

my benchHer studio is in her home. “I am pretty organized, but my studio is very small, so when I’m doing a lot of work, it can get chaotic,” she laughs. “I try to spend a couple hours a day in the studio when I’m not teaching.  When I have a few days off, I’ll spend all day in there much to my dog’s dismay.”

reading area and studio mateThis is also where she teaches and she has a lovely reading area which Tollie obviously likes to sit in.

I asked Michela which classes she really loves teaching. “I like beginners classes the most,” she says. “I love seeing students’ amazement when a piece comes out of the kiln and we polish it. I love seeing them catch the metal clay bug. I also like open studios. I teach a weekly one and I have students in that class who have been taking classes with me almost since the beginning of my teaching. They push me to expand my skills to keep up with them.” Student area

Copper fawn
Copper Fawn by M. Verani

As Michela and I are both doing the Masters Registry programme I asked her how she was getting on with it. “I have completed Level III,” she explained. “I am half way through getting my Level IV pieces completed. I hope to complete the remainder of the pieces by the end of the year (fingers crossed!).” I asked her how she approached it at the beginning. “When I started I did projects whose subject matter was interesting or easy for me.  That was a bad choice, as with each level you complete, the jurors get tougher on quality and originality.” I can empathise with this! I did the same and now I’m regretting it too. “I am absolutely dreading forging (sorry Tim!).  I don’t like hammering, as I have a sound sensitivity.”

Michela’s creative process is interesting. “I have tons of sketch books everywhere. I also collect pictures that interest me, color combinations, materials that look good together, other jewelers work, etc.  Whether or not I plan work depends on its complexity.  If it’s a simple piece, I just start with an idea and start working and let it go where it will.  If it’s a complex piece such as a clasp, I do work it through on paper.  I rarely make models though, I’d rather be working on the piece.”

She loves her tools too! “I love all my tools,” she laughs. “However if I had to choose a favourite, I’d have to say my rubber shapers, especially the small firm ones.”

Hinged Bracelet FrontHinged bracelet - hingeHinged Bracelet backI asked her what she’s currently working on. “I just finished up a bracelet with a screw clasp and I have been working on using copper and silver clay together.”

Although she considers herself primarily a metal clay artist, she also uses other materials and techniques in her work. “I do a lot of fused glass.  I love how it and metal clay combine.  I have used a bit of my felted work with metal clay. I will use metalsmithing with my work if it is stronger and a more sound technique than simply metal clay.  For example, soldered posts or ear wires rather than imbedded.”

She went on, “If you’re going to do mainly jewelry, a good understanding of milled metals and how to solder are essential.  Knowing when to use metalsmithing skills rather than metal clay is essential too. ” This is good advice!

Michela sells her work in a number of places. “I am a member of the League of NH Craftsmen and sell through their galleries, as well as a few local galleries. My advice to artists who want to sell is keep at it.  It’s a tough go in the current economy.” She has some tips though. “Do what you love, not what you think will make a buck.  People can tell, especially those buying handmade work.  Have a story, let people know why you do what you do.  Niche marketing is also good.”

Pods focal beadPodsMichela has a busy schedule which includes published work and she has won multiple awards for her work. I asked her which ones she was really happy with. “Here’s one I am particularly proud of, even though it only took a 2nd prize,” she explained. “It was the 2nd prize in the 2014 Bead Dreams contest, called ‘Pods’. It is 100% metal clay, nothing else.  It has a combination of bronze and metal clay mokume peeping out of folds of clay. Each pod was made separately and fired. The pods were then linked together with metal clay rings and each section linked was fired separately until the entire necklace was completed.  I tried doing multiple sections with unfired rings, but had too much breakage before it went in the kiln.  It was a very complex piece and I was thrilled with it when completed.  It was bought by a gallery owner, it was in a show at that gallery, and is now on permanent display at the gallery.  I was actually sorry to sell it.”

With teaching and the Masters Registry, I wondered what she does to relax. “Garden, read and watch sci fi,” she said. “I am a Dr. Who fanatic. I’ve been watching him since the early 70s and there isn’t an episode I haven’t seen several times. My fondest wish is to hear the Tardis materialize at my home and to take off in an adventure.” Don’t forget to pick me up on the way Mikki!

Finally, I asked Michela what she has on the horizon. “I guess I’d like to complete the Master’s Registry, get better at enamelling and have work in more galleries,” she explained. “I’d actually like to push for teaching to take up less of my time and to concentrate on more studio work. However, currently teaching is most of my income in metal clay. I will be teaching my low relief sculpting technique at the Metal Clay Arts Symposium in North Carolina in September.”

It was lovely to have a chance to chat with Michela and find out more about her. Check out her website here

12347681_10154340055124045_4667653997826735386_nArtist Profile Author: JULIA RAI is a teacher and artist working in a variety of media. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.



2 Responses to “Artist Profile: Michela Verani by Julia Rai”

  1. Thank you for interviewing Michela! We’re friends on Facebook, but it was really great to know more about her work, where she creates, and her process. We are kindred spirits with wildlife and the natural world and it shows in her work.

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