These Mosaic Vases — Incorporating Shells and Ceramics Discards — Went Viral on Instagram
Lucite remnants, Czech beads, carved brass from Ghana, a vintage belt buckle from Belgium — these are just some of the objects that find their way into artist Maxine Midtbo’s ceramic vessels, which she makes under the brand Memor from her studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Though Midtbo’s background is in sculpture — she first learned about traditional methods of working with clay on an artist residency in Jingdezgen, China, in 2013 — her practice is more related to mosaic arts like Pique Assiette. Unlike tiling and mosaic, though, her style is loose and imperfect — and, as such, perfect Instagram fodder.
Inspired by memory jugs from American folk art, Midtbo presses pieces of broken glass or ceramics, shells, stones, or fossils into her vase-shaped vessels. “The objects come from estate sales and auctions as well as thrift stores, reuse, and recycling centers, or my own personal collection,” she says. Memor is inspired by Midtbo’s upbringing traveling the world with her family, in particular her mother, whose sharp eye made her an amazing antiques collector. From a young age, Midtbo would accompany her mother to auctions, estate sales, and flea markets and soak up her knowledge and passion for remnants and collectibles.
Midtbo is interested in the personal value humans place in objects and our nostalgic relationships to them. “A single Memor piece may incorporate an ancient European coin and a broken piece of pottery, neutralizing the worth and value of each, unifying past and present, holding these two conflicting ideas in one,” she says. She performs a sage cleansing of each piece before it’s sent to its new home. “This is my way of acknowledging the previous lives of the objects and welcoming a new [one],” she says.
When Mitdbo makes a custom piece for a client she may include some of their personal belongings. “Memor is designed to be a collaborative studio,” she says; her most recent collaboration — which is featured in these images — is with ceramicist Rachel Saunders, whom Mitdbo long admired for her reusing and repurposing of vintage home wares. “I approached her with the idea of incorporating her shards or unusable ceramics to create something new using my process,” Midtbo says, “and the collaboration grew from there.” Fragmented, would-be discarded pieces of ceramics in muted greens and terracotta are given new life against the natural clay of the vessels. After a sold-out response to their debut collection, the pair are launching a second this summer.
“What I enjoy most about Memor is the people it connects me with,” Midtbo says, “people all over the world and in my own community.”
PHOTOS BY EGAN PARKS