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Memor Founder Maxine Midtbo Transforms Found Objects into Ceramic Masterpieces

The Cincinnati-based ceramicist immortalizes glass shards, sea shells, and antique jewelry on ceramic vases, jewelry, corsets, and more.

By Lissa Raylin Brewer with Claire Butwinick

STILL LIFE is a recurring feature that spotlights the Instagram of an emerging designer on our radar. In their own words, creatives from around the world go beyond the grid to uncover meaning behind their most compelling posts. 

Photo Brooke Shanesy Studio; Art direction/styling Jessie Cundiff

A reverence for the process of collection underscores each of Midtbo’s pieces. Drawing inspiration from her mother’s antique collecting, Midtbo is fascinated by the relationship between object and memory.

An early object of intrigue, a folk art piece known as a memory jug, is one of her favorite family heirlooms, illustrating her passion at the intersection of past and living histories. Her rituals of sourcing material, including visiting antique markets and estate sales, as well as bringing home tchotchkes and fragments from travels, reflect the practices of her upbringing.

Midtbo’s work is also rooted in the power of shared stories. Having recently collaborated with fellow designers Rachel Saunders, Eliou, and Yael Eban on her collections of vases and jewelry, retelling others’ stories is central to her practice. When working on the custom pieces she creates from clients’ keepsakes, she is eager to learn about the previous life that her materials have lived, and finds a sense of connection in creating a tangible piece from others’ mementos.

Midtbo chronicles her signature vases as well as recent ventures into wearable ceramic art and custom mirrors on Instagram. Below, she recounts the creative process and inspiration behind her ceramic pieces.

Photo by Egan Parks

“Many of the shards from this collection came from Yael Eban, an artist who collected them from Dead Horse Bay. The remnants are at least 50 years old and have been tumbled and left to dry on a beach of waste. Rachel [Saunders] and I were both deeply inspired by the history these shards brought to this collaboration. Each piece becomes a time capsule of both past and living history, elevating trash and treasure in the same form.”

“This idea was proposed to me by the brilliant Jillian of 323. Making this was very difficult as this process does not lend itself easily to wearables. However, I was so grateful she asked me to create this for her. Fashion is a huge inspiration for me and I am always open to anything that will push me out of my comfort zone. Keep your eye out this year for more Memor wearables.”

(Photo courtesy Memor)

Photo courtesy Memor

“I was so excited to be asked to make something on a much larger scale than I normally work. It required these mirrors to be made on site for Palm Heights in Grand Cayman. Creating the frame was also a shift back to a more two dimensional way of working, in which the majority of mosaic work exists (floors, walls, architectural elements). In feng shui, mirrors are acknowledged as tools for doubling. Reflecting beautiful views gives a sense of abundance and expanded space while also capturing impermanence of fleeting moments.”


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