TreeBed Design

Mare Island Brewing Co. is deeply rooted in the story of TreeBed Design, and I am happy to call them friends... as well as instigators of new creative challenges!

In 2015 I was almost ready to let go of my ceramic studio equipment, because my energy was going towards coffee (and some music things). Ryan (co-founder at MIBC) saw some of the tumblers that I made and asked if I could make ceramic growlers. I said, "I have never thought about such a thing... I'll try!"

It took me quite some time to figure it all out, but I did... and the growlers were a hit! This also opened the door to me learning about making production ceramics, and chefs asking for different items for restaurants/wineries/etc!

Fast forward a few years and Kent (other MIBC founder) asked if I could help with their new Whale Boat Room event space by transferring the original building plans for a whale boat built on Mare Island in 1934... up onto the BIG wall of the new space! The actual boat has been donated to them and will be disassembled to be used in the buildout of the room! 

Whale Boat Plans

I had never tackled such a larger mural project and was not sure exactly how to go about it... However, once again MIBC was willing to trust and support my artistic abilities to make it happen! So grateful for folks who are not only preserving stories, but also supporting artists to create new ones. 

After about 10 days, and numerous hours... trips up and down the ladder/lift, several paint pens, paint brush touch ups, re-positioning the projector, head scratches, a couple creative "changes" (see if you can find them all) to the plans, and a few beers...

The whale boat is up on the wall for all the fun events to come to that room!

TreeBed Design and the Whale Boat Mural at Mare Island Brewing Co.

Check out my IG page (as well as MIBCs) for more about this project and story!

Summer 2021
Welcome to Summer and my first ever newsletter! This has been something I have thought about doing for MANY years, and it is finally happening! What took so long?!? To answer that question I have to go back to the beginning of TreeBed Design, and how it started after the loss of my father. My dad was HIV positive for over 20 years (pretty rare in those early days of the AIDS crisis), and he finally lost that battle on Father’s Day 2004. My brother and I inherited his house in Vallejo, and I was able to set up a small studio space to make ceramics again.

My dad wrote a note to me when I left for college that said, “I don’t care what you do… as long as you treat those around you honestly & fairly. Besides that do whatever is meaningful to you.” I did my best to apply this to what I thought HE might want me to do after his death, and so I rushed into trying to start a business that could sustain my creative passions. I had a lot to learn about grief. I also had a lot to learn about how to apply those words of wisdom that he offered me… for ME.

I was very young when my dad came out to our family as gay, and then a few years later I learned about his HIV (after the loss of his first partner). These traumas shaped my understanding of the world (only beginning to understand the full extent of this in the last few years), and it informed how I started TBD after his loss. I had plenty of passion, ideas, creativity… However, I didn’t understand what I needed to grieve/heal in order to build a proper foundation for starting TBD. So I made mistakes. I stumbled, and got off course. In fact, I was never really clear where I was headed in the first place. I was operating out of a lot of fear (buried deep), and not fully living into all that was possible.

Dad and I (1999)

So as I reflect and move through this potent month of remembering (Father’s Day, Solstice, Pride Month)… It felt important to take a big step towards re-launching TreeBed Design (with love). I am making the newsletter happen now, because I have finally laid the foundation to make it happen (along with asking for support). I have used those stumbles and detours to discover/know my grief. To feel it more fully. To heal (which is a continuous process). To more fully understand the privilege I have in this journey, and be grateful for all the support I have been given. I still can’t say exactly where TreeBed Design is going (it is “TBD” after all), but I look forward to using this newsletter to tell you about where I am finding myself at the moment. My hope is that there is value in the process of sharing my work (for us both), and the stories that the work is rooted in. Sure it is partially about making and selling products/services that I design… However, underneath that it is about creating community in the shared experiences of being human.

Thank you for being the first people to witness and support this next chapter of TBD! Some of you have been watching this evolve (start/stop/pause/etc) since the very beginning… I’m so grateful for the continued interest and investment in my unfolding!

Process:
I don’t need to tell you that it has been a wild year! With no in-person dining there was not much need for my restaurant/winery customers to have ceramic dishes. However, once things started opening up… I am happy to say I got VERY busy. You can interact with my work at: Mare Island Brewing Co. (Vallejo), Compline (Napa), Katz Farm (Napa), Donum Estate (Sonoma), Stone Edge Farm (Sonoma), and more added soon which I’ll post on my FAQ page! There has been a lot to learn navigating my new Vallejo work space, supply chain issues, and shifting a side hustle into sustainable full time work. The goal is to balance all of those logistic/production things with finding the energy to re-spark creativity. I discovering how do I want to be in relationship with my work (especially the work I do in my living space), and nourish/care for all the parts of my being?

Mare Island Brewing Co. "Squealers"

Product:
I have been making a lot of vases lately, and having so much fun doing so! It often feels like getting back to my ceramic sculptural roots… adding details, seeing where the clay takes me, and thinking about how the vase will be viewed/used. I love the idea that people will add their own creativity to the vase: flowers, kitchen utensils, and whatever else might fit! Summer is such a great time to forage in the garden for different colors/textures/etc to add to a vase. Each time you fill it up, a new work of art is created! Check out these new vases with the little “rivet” detail!

TBD Vases

Sale: (gotta sign up for the actual newsletter for that part)

Next newsletter will be in the fall with perhaps a few emails of big stuff in between... if you aren't signed up... click the link so you can get discounts and first access to new products/events!

Thank you so much for reading and following along!

-Micah

TreeBed Design is adding a seasonal newsletter to the mix, and you can sign up right now! My hope is to send out information about what is happening with TBD, and form a deeper connection to... my story, process, and the products being created.

There will also be access to discounts, special releases, and you'll be the first to know about events/classes/etc

Nobody needs more email clutter, and I don't want to be another brand constantly shouting into the void of your digital world. It is my intention to add value to your connections with TreeBed Design, and better share the story of what is unfolding in my creative process... I want you to be a part of my community as I bring my creativity into the light!

ShakyTreeCoffee News

Photo Story: Once upon a time (2007) I helped start a coffee house in the town of Spencer, IA... there was a presidential election going on, and that meant lots of action in Iowa small towns. We held a mock caucus to teach people how to participate in that process, and vote for the drink of their choice (I think the latte won ;) 

Shaky Tree Coffee was a magical little oasis of 3rd wave coffee (more about my connection to that for another story time), music/art, and community! The news article in the photo was about our mock caucus, and we hosted events for different candidates (including one with Joe Biden's late son Beau in the middle of a blizzard). I took this photo as a part of a Flickr challenge to take a self portrait each day for a year (before IG or the term selfie existed)... this was a pretty good one. 

2020 is coming to a close, and winter is now officially upon us. Always a time of year for many to reflect, but this year has been especially... well, you fill in a description!

Perhaps one ending gift of this year is that for many this holiday season will be very different due to COVID-19... yes, a gift. Along with all of the struggle, grief, and uneasiness... perhaps there will be a bit slower pace, and more space to slow down, go inward and reflect (which lends itself to this solstice season naturally... despite the normal holiday craziness we are used to). 

For me it has been the year of landing, and planting myself in a new way. Since the 2017 fires, I have been scrambling to find my footing. In March (2020) I moved back to Vallejo to do just that, and give my full attention to TreeBed Design. A week later... everything shutdown due to the pandemic. At first this felt like a continuation/escalation of my disrupted life, but now looking back... it was actually the beginning of the "pause" (plunged deep into the soil) that I needed to look at myself, the world (and how I participate in it) differently. With each new layer of 2020 that unfolded I was given the opportunity to slow down again, and re-evaluate what is important in my life... how I need/want to show up for myself, my community and beyond. This wasn't easy. It still feels pretty uncomfortable... and yet, there are glimpses of the beauty found in turning towards creativity, towards healing, towards racial justice, towards standing up for better ways to take care of each other. These are the things I want to find my footing in, and my "work" will grow out of that. At this transition of the solstice... that is the light I am stretching towards. 

 It was a year that brought me back to projects that I was about to start on right before the fire... a second growler for Mare Island Brewing Company, more TBD Tuesday Tumblers,  and new recording projects have taken shape this year. For the first time in 3 years I have the space to paint (hooray for Stripes!), record music, have hands in clay, and relax/recharge! I am so grateful for that space and feel incredibly privileged to be re-connecting to my own creativity. Thank you for being a part of all of this... with orders from the website, support of places that use my work, following/liking pictures posted along the way, and cheering me on! I hope there is more of all of this to come.

Striped

I can't say I know what 2021 holds... However, I do have the sense that I am ready to press "play", and emerge from my "pause" with new creative energy. I hope to collaborate more, make space for more creativity/healing/beauty, and connect with my community in deeper ways. I want to celebrate more joy as I grow into the light ahead... oh, and hopefully hug (everyone)! 

- with lots of love and gratitude... see you in 2021

Yes... it has been a while. The past year has been a doozy! About this time last year I was trying my best to hold onto my home/studio in Vallejo (of 14 years), and when that didn't work out... I found a beautiful spot to land in rural Napa on Mt. Veeder. I was nearly unpacked/organized, and ready to start building out a new studio (I had just done my first firing of my ceramic kiln)... when the devastating wild fires swept through and took nearly everything. I lost a great deal of my work, tools, instruments, etc (along with all my household belongings). Whew!

Damaged Ceramics Work

Which brings me to why I am so excited to be participating in Napa Makes tomorrow! I finally started making work a few weeks ago, and I get to share that work with people in a beautiful setting... while serving Ritual Coffee! I'm feeling so grateful that my time in this community is yielding such strong support for all of the things that I love to do. 

If you are in the area... please come and check out all of the amazing vendors (10am-4pm at the Oxbow School in Napa)! If you are far away... please keep an eye out for signs of life at TreeBed Design!!! 

I am welcoming in 2016 by looking back... way back to my college days (Graceland University). Specifically the days working in the ceramics studio. I created a small body of work that leaned against the idea that as a "potter/ceramicist" I was destined to make mugs and teapots. I didn't see anything wrong with creating this type of work, but I didn't like it to be assumed that this is who I was as an artist. So the worked referenced functional ceramic pieces, and had a metallic/machine fabrication aesthetic. I had big ideas for this work and where I would take it... However, I didn't really understand how to tackle these ideas, in order to make the body of work a reality. I got overwhelmed, and the ideas sat on the shelf.

Tea Pot Jams, made circa 2000

 

Fast forward to about this time last year (yes, fast forward... backwards)... I had been getting my hands back in clay. As I dipped my toes (well, fingers) back in the clay... I found myself leaning towards making simple tumblers. These items were something to use, and compliment my life in coffee. I had never seen my skill set matching up very well with those of a "production" potter, but there was something intriguing about tackling that notion... and turning it on its head.

 

Then, out of the blue... I was asked if I, "could make custom ceramic growlers". I had never thought about such a thing, and had no idea how to go about fulfilling that request... so I said, "yes, I think I can do that". I had also just recently made a challenge to myself to "try and fail" at as many things as possible. This meant, instead of shying away from things that I thought I could not do, or might not be good at... that I would GO FOR IT!!!

So... in the last few hours of 2015... I delivered growlers number: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 (out of 250 to be made). All were sold before the doors to Mare Island Brewing Co. was even open for business (and there was still a line of people who would have to wait for the next batch). The reason I write this post now, is to highlight the fact that these growlers are tied to that work from long ago. The work I was doing then is present now, both in aesthetic and concept. I had to lean into what I bucked against as a young college student... just now am I learning how to be myself. Letting the work flow out of me, and not simply just pushing against the box that others (or myself) might want to put me in. I can now look back at the patterns of my life, and see that the things people now often say that I am "good at"... are all things I was quite sure I could never excel at. What a wonderful thing it is to be proved wrong... and learn something new!

64 oz Growler for Mare Island Brewing Co. (2015)

Another holiday season is ramping up towards the frenzied, shop-til-ya-drop, crash into the new year, and hope we all survive it… season we know and love (sorta). I often feel very anxious this time of year as a "creative business person", because I sense the need to "take advantage" of the opportunity to sell. I am admittedly not very good at this part, and I can get stuck beating myself up for not being better. So today, I am taking a time out. To simply enjoy the love I have for creating.

Last year I recorded a simple version of the song Silent Night that I have been singing for a few years. Perhaps you can use it as back ground for your own time out. This is a season of darkness, and the opportunity for quiet reflection. Winter is getting ready to settle in, and hold our deeper thoughts. There are things to hold ourselves accountable/responsible for, and there are the gifts we can give ourselves (and others) of being loving, gentle… letting go. I have much to be grateful in this season. Today I am going to sit and soak that gratitude up. I am going to do what I can in my studio, and share as much of it as possible… whether it is during this holiday season, or perhaps in the new year. 

It is my hope you find your own space of quiet reflection during the hustle and bustle of this season… and that what ever lights you up, you find more of in the new year!