We’re very excited to add artist and ceramicist Maria Moyer to west elm’s growing list of collaborators! Maria demonstrates her passion for ocean life and sustainable craft through her work and her Plankton Series for west elm — a collection of matte white porcelain vessels — highlights the intricate structures of the foundation of the Earth’s food chain. west elm is donating 5% of the purchase price of the collection to non-profit Oceana, a group Maria works closely with to help protect the world’s oceans.
What inspires you?
Nature. Kindness. Wit.
How would you describe your work?
I am a sculptor. In the past it was wood, today I use porcelain. I hand build objects by rolling thin slabs of porcelain and using porcelain coils to build a desired shape. While porcelain has a reputation for being fragile, it’s actually very strong after it’s been fired in a kiln at very high temperatures. Porcelain can be a little finicky, however. It is the tension between what I imagine and what I can make with my own hands (sometimes they are miles apart), that will make for a lifetime of inspiration for me.
Who are your favorite artists/designers and why?
I have a thing for the makers — people who not only design, they make what they design, even if it’s their prototypes. Some of my favorite designers not only add beauty but make the world a better place. My list of favorites artists and designers is long, some of whom I have been lucky to have as friends. A few of them are: Alabama Chanin, Yves Behar, Isamu Noguchi, the painter Gerhard Richter, and I have recently become obsessed with the late sculptor Costantino Nivola and the jewelry made by his wife, Ruth Nivola.
What’s your approach to decorating?
An object, a piece of furniture or a work of art needs to mean something to me personally for me to want to live with it everyday. A few favorites in my house: a pair of handmade 1920s wood and cold-rolled steel chairs I found at a Paris flea market, a collection of abandoned birds nests from my yard, woven pillows for west elm by Lutz & Patmos (friends of mine) all live happily with furniture I made or were made by friends who are much better woodworkers than I am.
Tell us about your collection for west elm. How did it come together?
I was lucky to be asked to make a presentation to the west elm creative team. I explained my idea of a plankton-inspired collection and showed them photos of plankton along with a few of my design ideas. The plankton images are so gorgeous and intricate that they moved the west elm crew as much as they do me. After that meeting, I was delighted to be invited to design “The Plankton Series” and I introduced west elm to Oceana, a non-profit doing great work to protect our oceans. Oceana will receive some of the proceeds from the sale of my designs for west elm. I am very happy about that.
Tell us a little about your passion for the ocean and how this collection supports Oceana.
I grew up near the ocean and have spent a significant amount of time in the water and on beaches. The Plankton Series reflects my appreciation for the beauty and “exquisite weirdness” of nature, especially plankton, which are the tiny plants and animals at the foundation of the Earth’s food chain. The shapes of these pieces are inspired by the pillbox-like armor that protect plankton from their many predators — but are visible only under a microscope.
Other than west elm, where can we find your work?
SHOP MARIA MOYER + WEST ELM PLANKTON SERIES
Images: Leslie Williamson, west elm
MORE MARIA MOYER
• Hand/Eye Magazine: Honoring Visible and Invisible Waves
• Maria Moyer on Facebook