I love going to museums that showcase snippets of an artist’s work over time, showing their humble beginnings and revealing the foundational talent behind the confidence in their distinct styles. If I were to put MiMOKO’s current work on an artist’s timeline, it would be in the late middle, where the style is so distinct and recognizable, and the formal training in design is apparent in the craftsmanship. We sat down with Monique Skelton from MiMOKO to learn more about what makes her so good at what she does.
Monique’s journey to ceramic arts involves a long, winding road, filled with enough serendipitous events to convince any skeptic that she’s doing exactly what she was meant to be doing. She has dabbled in sculpture, furniture, jewelry, candlemaking, watercolour and is even a qualified pyrotechnician (!) in her home country of New Zealand. There is no doubt that her creative history is vast and informs the mastery of her craft that is so elegantly communicated by her brand, MiMOKO. She was introduced to ceramics by a market vendor who mentioned Claytek Pottery Studios, right on the south seawall in Vancouver. She took her first hand-building class there, then a wheel throwing class, and then became immediately addicted to the craft.
With support and encouragement from her friends and family, she took a leap of faith, rented space at the Beaumont Studios, and pursued pottery full time in 2017. Despite the perfectionism that is so evident in her work, her educational training in sculpture, and experience with clay through jewelry, she had the humility and discipline to start from scratch and work as an apprentice to Heather Dahl. She gained invaluable experience working in a busy, productive studio with Heather, while she was busy creating her own work at the Beaumont. You’d think that working as an apprentice while running your own ceramics studio would be tiring, but to this she said, “When you love what you do, it’s energizing!”
If you were lucky enough to go to her sample sale last year, you would have seen just how much energy and passion she has. I was one of the first to arrive and saw countless prototypes of the orbital vases - all perfect in my eyes, but perhaps not meeting the level of beauty, perfection and resilience that only an artist and business owner like Monique can see.
Monique’s design philosophy plays with a dichotomy of opposites, pulling the eye to reconcile the two. Matte porcelain with a shiny golden dot, textured crackle and smooth glaze, all of which are present in every single piece she releases.
I was initially drawn to Monique’s work because of the originality behind her orbital vases. These precise geometric shapes require a high level of confidence that could only come from an artist skilled enough to transform sketches to reality, but also humble enough to push past the idea that the first few iterations are good enough. I left her studio feeling so inspired by her constant drive to evolve and improve her craft.
2022 is going to present big changes for MiMOKO. If you follow MiMOKO on Instagram, you’ll see that the studio walls are now a completely different colour and that it now has a new window. White clay is also on its way out and will be transitioning to red clay this year. As much as we love her work now, we can’t wait to see all of Monique’s new ideas come to life!
Photos by Lorenzo Ignacio