Michelle Coakes is currently a professor of art at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois, where she teaches ceramics, art history, art appreciation and graphic design.
Coakes has been making pots for more than 30 years and holds a BFA, MA and MFA in Ceramics (all from Northern Illinois University.) She has done post graduate work at Wichita State University and the University of Southern Maine. She has taught at a number of schools throughout the country, including the University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, Juniata College (PA), and two other community colleges in Illinois
Coakes is the author of “Creative Pottery: A Step by Step Guide and Showcase” published by Rockport publishers in 1998.
My current work in clay is based upon two functional forms which have long intrigued me: antique oil cans and whiskey flasks. Different elements of each of these items are of particular interest. With the oil cans, it is the long, angled spouts, common on cans designed for railroad cars, as well as the “dinged” form that results from long use. With the flasks, it is the slim form of the vessel – how it is designed to fit against the hip. There is the implied sense of secrecy and stealth as well.
In my ceramic vessels, I am trying to integrate elements of these two distinct vessels into one form. Though both source vessels are designed for use, my combination vessels are not functional. There are holes in all the right places, yet there is no way to fill them. But functionality is not one of my concerns with this work. I am more interested in the problems of how to combine two forms, how to push clay to imitate metal, and how to extend the spouts to their greatest limits. And lately, another concern has been added. Can I make these pieces reference human form as well?