Commenting on the placement of his work at the Esther Bear Gallery, Montecito, Michael said ‘placement in the outside environment is what interests me. Nature is my inspiration. I am equally interested in the way my pieces relate to the environment and the environment to each piece.’
Michael will be remembered as one of the pioneers in Southern California’s 20th Century Modern trail-blazing list of craftspeople and designers. In high fire stoneware, porcelain and Raku he created an extensive body of small and monumental work. Each thrown piece or sculpture embodies a freedom of form and zest for experimentation with his distinctive style and energized strength.
His interests expanded to multi-piece pit fired ceramic ‘wall systems’, to ceremonial fetish clay pieces with feather and bone, to big porcelain luster glazed cover jars, a stoneware series of 50 ‘particles of the universe’ exhibited at Fermi Lab Chicago, to clay books of all sizes, to fabricated stones used as soup bowls, to fiberglass masks and tribal referenced fiberglass decorative shirts, to intricate large scale watercolors, to color photography particularly of the Sedgwick Ranch and the UC’s Nature Reserve System.
Long before retiring from 38 years at UCSB, having achieved the status of Professor Emeritus, he was a member of his Oklahoma Northwest Classen High School’s wrestling and football teams. As a valued linebacker and pulling guard he went on to land a place on Santa Monica City College’s 1958 Junior College National Champion Team. The final championship game was played at the filled to the brim Rose Bowl. Because of his football scholarships he was able to pursue his growing passion for clay at Long Beach State University achieving a post graduate MFA degree. Time with Dave Cressey of Architectural Pottery blended in with his academic studies, as he created countless unsigned large textured planters by throwing huge 75 pounds of clay on a potter’s wheel.
He was sought out and offered a position at UCSB. Seeing the massive ceramic studio with its walk-in kilns, the nearby lagoon and ocean cemented the deal. Over his 38 years there he influenced countless students many of whom have written the family heart warming tributes at his passing. He loved his undergraduate and graduate students, loved mentoring and challenging them and feeling pride in their success.
He loved fly fishing, tying flies and making split bamboo fly rods. He loved lobster fishing on his 26’ Wilson ‘Coquille’. He felt inspiration from Native American and African Art. He loved to anchor his boat off Goleta Beach and swim in to faculty meetings with his clothes held high. He enjoyed designing and building two family homes. He loved back packing and canoeing with UCSB colleagues and family in most of the west’s trout streams and National Parks.
His wife Penny, their son Chris (wife Kristin and seven-month-old Hunter), their daughter Rebecca (husband Dan and two adult children Ceil and Danny), and their daughter Michele (husband Eric and two adult children Chloe and Spencer of Portland OR) are planning an inclusive celebration of Michael’s well lived life when the virus climate allows.