TreeBed Design

Winter Solstice... Slow Down/Reflection... Returning 

We have come through the Winter Solstice, and have made the very first steps towards the returning light. This particular solstice feels potent for me. As the dust settles from my holiday push... I am sinking into what feels like a more natural rhythm for this time of year: slow, dark, pulling in the warmth I can find, and looking back at the past year. How did this (ever faster) unfolding year fit into the larger arc of my life, and the growth of TreeBed Design? It was a big year for TBD, and there is much to celebrate in recounting what has been accomplished! 

2021 began with Covid surging (again), and this felt especially hard after getting a taste of things starting to re-open up in the fall of 2020. My body processed this return to isolation with a great deal of heaviness and anxiety. I realized I would need to make some changes in order to dig out of the darkness I was slipping into. So I asked for help. This was the first big move of 2021 (not something I am always very good at). I checked in with my doctor (I thought my heart was failing, before I realized anxiety was getting the best of me), who pointed me towards different support options for my health. I share this mostly to normalize asking for help (the more I remind myself the better), and to maybe encourage anyone reading this who is struggling to reach out as well. Soon after taking this step I had the thought, "what if I had help with TBD... what could I accomplish?" That very day I saw an Instagram post by Camila (someone I started following by way of coffee connections) talking about the virtual assistance work she does... so I reached out! Camila was sharing on IG in a way that resonated with me, and I instantly felt supported in moving TBD forward. Check out her website, art, and the Pause Project (so awesome)! 

With Camila's support, I began creating many new aspects of tending an ecology for TreeBed Design to grow from. There was a consistent social media strategy... sharing my story, process, and products. The first TBD newsletter went out in the Summer. I opened my doors for the return of the Vallejo Art Walk (as well began volunteering to run their IG account), and I did my first intentional holiday release! 

The first full year of returning to self employment was no easy road, but 2021 was the most productive TBD year yet! I made more pieces this year than ever before, and all of that in spite of supply chain problems that created major headaches to production. Along with hundreds of plates, bowls, growlers, mugs, tumblers etc... I tackled a new skill: mural making! In August I got to translate the 90 year old blue prints of a boat built on Mare Island into a giant wall mural for the new Mare Island Brewing Co. Whaleboat Room (click for a video of the making). 

So on this winter solstice... I slow down, and go inward to reflect on how the journey of the past year has fit into my longer story. I can see reminders that my asking for help... is helpful. I can feel the support of that help, and celebrate new structures in place to make moving forward easier. I can honor the struggle and resistance that I had to move through in order to make those things happen. A big part of 2021 was just the simple act of starting. After the trauma of the fire (or pandemic, or loss, etc) it can feel incredibly hard to start (or re-start) anything, and I spent much of the year wobbling between survival mode (patterns long engrained)... and choosing the sturdiness of success (which is still an evolving definition). I am so grateful for all of YOU who have been a part of this process, and the support I have felt while I wobble. I am not totally sure what 2022 will be for TBD. There is a lot in flux, but it feels like in 2021 I gave myself a foundation to grow into something beautiful!

- Micah

Intro/Welcome

Fall has arrived, and so has the 2nd edition of the TreeBed Design Newsletter! I am excited to share a bit about the summer… where I am at now… as well as a look ahead!


I was reading an article this morning that captured what I felt over much of this summer… “Why You Feel  So Tired All the Time?”  The core idea in the article, that many of us have replaced “excitement” with “anxiety,” resonated in a big way. The summer is usually filled with vacations, gatherings with friends/family, and fun things to look forward to! However, this was another summer where all of those things still needed to be measured for risk, and uncertainty. It is exhausting! 


I felt this low level exhaustion trying to navigate increased orders (hooray!), supply chain issues (“it's going to be HOW LONG till I get that glaze?”), and the ever shifting landscape of our current world. 


It has been an intense learning curve to be once again working for myself, and understanding HOW to do that in an authentic, healthy, sustainable way. Usually the lesson starts with the words, “SLOW DOWN… good, now SLOW DOWN a bit more”. I know this is not the intuitive answer for our ever faster world (especially when it comes to work/business). However, I have to keep reminding myself I am not trying to create what IS. I am trying to create what I WANT. Which means asking myself, “what do I want?” So when I don’t see a million Instagram follows or likes… I remember I actually desire an authentic community that is invested in what I am doing (Small is Beautiful). When my work flow feels messy and awkward… I remind myself that my creative outlets are crafts that I am learning on a life long path (I am growing). I keep asking… where do my desires draw me, and where is the joy and delight that can be found in what I am doing at the moment (even when I am cleaning buckets)?


Another helpful tool in finding a new rhythm this summer has been the telling of the #TBDstory (through my IG/Facebook/Twitter). It has been insightful to look back at what I have done in the past, and gain better clarity to where I am now. The past few weeks especially have been about letting go of the (sometimes harsh) stories I had been holding about myself, and embracing the beauty of what I did accomplish/learn/etc. During these challenging times, it has been helpful to look back at how my 20 year old self handled some really tough times, and appreciate all the tools and support that I now have to navigate in even better ways. I hope my 60 year old self gets to look back at this newsletter and do the same!


Process: 

Whew! It was a whirlwind of a summer for TreeBed Design, and as places opened up… they wanted ceramics! There was lots of production happening over the past few months, as well as some design/R&D/collaboration. It is a lot to juggle for one person! Beyond the actual making of plates, bowls, growlers, vases, mugs, tumblers, etc… I was working on my infrastructure. Summer saw the return of the Vallejo Art Walk (every 2nd Friday), and I even did my first pop up event! This meant that my Vallejo live/work space needed to be ready for people to visit (which was my original idea for the space). I’ve been having fun organizing and sprucing things up to invite people in for the Artwalk, and dream into what comes next for the space (keep reading for news about Studio Visits)!


TreeBed Design has always been about creating bridges between worlds, and one of those bridges is between old and new technologies. I invested in a 3D printer this summer so that I could learn about this new avenue of creation… as well as add adaptability and independence to some of my current work flow. I am still in the learning stages of this new tool, but soon I hope to add a whole new level of creative capabilities to what TBD offers (custom branding, making my own stamps/tools/etc, and more)! 


I also tackled a new version of an old skill (drawing/painting) this summer… a giant mural! The folks at Mare Island Brewing Co. asked if I could help with their new event space, by adding the original building plans of a 1934 whaleboat to a 20’ stretch of wall! Murals have long been something I was curious about doing more of, and here was my chance to dive in. I had some nervous days planning, and working through how to execute such a job (I really had no idea how it would work until I started in). However, I got in a groove once I made the first mark on the wall, and ended up being quite happy with the results! Check out this video of the process, and if you have a mural idea for your space… get in touch!


 

Product: 

At some point this summer I realized that most everything I have made up to this point has really been R&D. I suppose this is always true to some degree, but in the early stages of learning a new craft (of which production ceramics still feels like) everything made adds new understanding. Now that I am working on TreeBed Design full time, and building the business side of being an artist… it is time to refine and settle into a bit more structure (not always my favorite ;) 


In the coming months I will begin to roll out a more streamlined version of products on the website and introduce new custom pieces. It is my hope to have a mix of affordable ceramics that are easily replicated, and on hand… as well as fold in other unique offerings that are made to order in a wider spectrum. This will allow some customization of color, or surface treatments. The long term goal is to have a “community” of offerings that all feel connected, but also allow for creative collaboration! 


There will be an extra newsletter edition coming in between the Fall and Winter, to highlight holiday gift giving possibilities. So look for that in Oct/Nov. 


In the meantime… I am opening up my Vallejo space to Studio Visits, and I would like you to help me test the systems for that! I just set up the capability on my website to make the appointments, but it is not fully on display yet. However, this link will get you there, and you can help me with the soft opening of my studio/showroom! My goal is to create a comfortable space to visit, check out what I am working on (and how I do it), browse what is in stock (my work is meant for you to pick up with your hands), maybe have a coffee/tea to sip on, and get access to special pieces that don’t make it on the website! Come visit me soon, and keep an eye out for special offerings. 

TreeBed Design Studio

 

As I mentioned above, much of my work up to this point has felt like R&D. I have learned so much in the last few years about the pieces that I have been making, and so grateful that I have been able to test those pieces out in some of the best restaurants, wineries and breweries in the world (how lucky am I)! It is time to clear out what I have on hand to make room for what is coming down the line, and I want you to help! Use the discount code: (sign up for the newsletter for this part ;) on the website to receive 30% off ANYTHING in stock on the website!!! This code will work until October 22. If you know someone who might like my work… please share this newsletter and access to the code (help me grow the small and beautiful community I hope for :)


Thank you again for being on this journey with me. There are so many amazing things happening, and more to share as they unfold: new collaborations, new products, new recordings, hopefully a new studio space (does anyone have a lead on a vallejo/napa warehouse space?), and most importantly… new ways of caring for myself, and my community as TreeBed Design moves forward! Hope to see you soon, and please take care.

-Micah



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

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)