Michael Strand, head of the visual arts department at North Dakota State, has diligently divided his time between social, artistic and educational platforms for as long as he has been producing. The culmination of these efforts have been realized by Ceramics Monthly, who named him Ceramic Artist of the Year for 2014.
Tessa Beck sat down with Strand to discuss his recent successes.
Tessa Beck: First of all, congratulations. What does this award mean to you, and what type of an effect does it have moving forward?
Michael Strand: Well one thing it does, for me, is solidify this kind of work. Meaning that the avenue I’ve gone down isn’t necessary traditional in the field, so it recognizes (this) way of working. The other thing I’m excited about … is that it sets a foundation for other people who work this way, for people who work socially.
(I’m) working in the direction of thinking as much of context as of object, thinking of the way it moves into community as an art, not just a service. That’s what I’ve worked hard to establish, that all of this is a creative practice.
TB: Ceramist of the Year is chosen for setting an example in embracing current trends in technology, studio and marketing practices and more. How do you work toward enacting those principles into your work?
MS: I think one, my work is highly dependent upon the narrative and media and presence. My work is very appropriate for media-level platforms.
The movement around social interconnectedness isn’t an art movement; it’s a human movement … the practice of being socially connected is represented in the work.
Also because I’ve been very prolific in lecturing … that is another part, you have to do interesting things and broadcast it.
TB: Where do you plan to go from here, from an educator’s and artist’s perspective?
MS: Where I see myself going as an artist is slowing down the number of projects that I do and writing more.
One thing I’m really interested in is how to create a platform to create custom objects. I think your generation really likes custom-made things, so as a maker, how can I create a platform where you start with what you want, and then synch up makers who are actually interested not in doing commissions, but in doing customized, weird things.
As an educator, I want to find more ways to integrate this way of working with students across disciplines.