Company: Miss Millie
Proprietor: Melissa Crotty
Located In: Philadelphia
Art Star: How did you learn your craft? Are you formally trained in ceramics or are you self taught?
Melissa Crotty: I started working with clay through an apprenticeship about 12 years ago. I worked with a woman in Western New York who in trade for working in her studio taught me how to throw. She was an inspiration and a mentor. She really pushed me to study the arts even further. I wasn’t totally convinced on going to a 4 year art school right away so I enrolled in CCP and traveled a bit doing workshops at places like Penland School of Crafts and Anderson Ranch. Eventually, I landed at Alfred University where I received a BFA in sculpture in 2005.
AS: What drew you to working primarily in porcelain?
MC: I’ve worked in a lot of different materials and a lot of different clay bodies. I like porcelain because I apparently really like a challenge and I love the way it feels in your hands. I also love the way color pops on and next to the stark white of the raw clay body.
AS: When did you start your business? Do you work on Miss Millie full time?
MC: I’ve dabbled in craft shows for the last few years but really started taking my business to new levels this last year, doing more shows and gearing up for more wholesale. I work on Miss Millie pretty much all the time but I also waitress a few days a week.
AS: Where do you work on Miss Millie? Do you have a separate studio?
MC: I have a studio at 13th and Carpenter. We have a great community of artists in the building. We do craft shows there twice a year called The South Philly Handmade Brigade.
AS: Do you have any employees/interns?
MC: I do not have any employees but I might take on an intern next semester. I could really use some help but I’m somewhat of a control freak so I’m going to have to figure out what I can have someone else do.
AS: I went to school for ceramics myself, so I know that there are many steps involved in creating each of your pieces. Tell us a bit about how your work is made.
MC: I start out slip casting lots of parts (heads, legs, arms, bugs, animals, flowers, ect.) and put them in a wet box so I can use them later. I then roll out slabs and build forms such as mugs, bowls, vases, tumblers and cups. Then comes the really fun part, assembling and designing what goes on the forms. Like a collage process I take a form and add some cast pieces and then maybe more pieces and then possibly a drawing. Then they dry for about 2 weeks. They are fired once I apply glaze & then they are fired again and are finished (unless I’m adding a decal – then they are fired a third time).
AS: What is your creative process like? Do you start with a sketch/plan or is it more of an intuitive process?
MC: I start out with an idea of what form and then the additions and drawings are intuitive. It’s really fun for me that way because I’m never exactly sure what I’ll come up with.
AS: What are some things that inspire you?
MC: My inspiration comes from so many places like nature, traveling, architecture, food, people, animals, dance, music and seeing other artist’s work. I also really love vintage dolls and I’m totally fascinated by the people who collect them. When I was younger my great aunt was a collector of clowns and I really loved going to her house even though the dolls were kind of bizarre. I’ve been thinking of her collections a lot lately and feel like this doll series is inspired by her.
AS: Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters?
MC: Oh man this is a hard one because there are so many. Off the top of my head… Frida Kahlo, Bansky, and Nick Cave (the fabric artist, not the musician, although I do love the musician also.) There are so many amazing crafters in this city. I really love Peg and Awl, Bloodmilk, madebyhank, Dahling Accessories, girls can tell, DMT Design, Fabric Horse and Volta Organics to name a few.
AS: There are many different kinds of pieces in your collection – mugs, bowls, vases, lanterns, jewelry, pill boxes, herb markers, etc. Do you have any new forms in the works?
MC: Yes I have dessert plates, salt and pepper shakers and soap dishes that are new. Oh and some new jewelry!
AS: Where do you see Miss Millie in the next 5 years?
MC: In five years I hope to be running smoothly doing mostly wholesale with a few employees, always working on new designs and hopefully in a warmer climate.
AS: What do you enjoy the most about running your own creative business?
MC: I can bring my dog to work!
AS: What will you be selling at the upcoming ascb?
MC: I’m going to have new jewelry and some new ornaments. I’m also working on some packaging for gift ideas, which I’m really excited about.