Friday, March 25, 2005

WestWord Magazines-BEST of DENVER 2005

Best Ceramics Show -- Solo
Best of Denver ® 2005:
Michael Coffee: Place of Mind

The Lakewood Cultural Center has made ceramics a specialty, with regular group shows devoted to the medium. The center hosted a rare solo show last fall, when Michael Coffee's smart-looking Place of Mind was installed in the north gallery. Coffee, a retired architect who turned to ceramics ten years ago, has mastered the art of clay, as evidenced by his totem sculptures made of glazed clay cylinders stacked on top of one another. Best of all, the exhibit came and went without anyone from the City of Lakewood seeking to censor it, as happened out there more recently with another ceramics show.

Link to Place of Mind images

Monday, March 21, 2005

March 20th, 2005 Pagosa Springs Artists' Salon and Round Table

Friday, March 18, 2005

Intuition Vases

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pagosa Springs Sun Article

An Artist's Haven-In Pagosa?

by Erin Quirk
Staff Writer for
The Pagosa Springs Sun
March 03, 2005
Is there such a thing as satirical pottery? What about ironic ceramics? Can the art of working with clay and glaze be more than just pots and vases?

If your name is Michael Coffee, the answer is yes. And for the art world in Pagosa Springs, Coffee and his wife Denise have a proposition.

Coffee is easy to spot most mornings at the Higher Grounds Coffee Shop. He has a long gray goatee and an easy, articulate manner. Coffee is a fairly recent transplant from Los Angeles and brings to Pagosa Springs everything that is vibrant, remarkable and brisk about the City of Angels.

Coffee, an architect by trade, is an artist in many genres, from ceramics, to kiln brick sculpting to painting to printmaking. His monoprints hang in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the wall of hotels like the Mandalay Bay in Los Vegas and the Seoul Ritz Carlton.

But ceramic art is his current love and to Coffee it is the most technically difficult and satisfying of all his genres. Visit his Shy Rabbit Showroom and Ceramic Studio on Bastille Drive and on is immediately confronted by provocative fine art, ceramic structures in a spare, open-space gallery.

What they are isn't easy to define. One series, entitled "Intuition Markers" introduces the viewer to Coffee's mind and spells out just what he stands for as an artist.

"What I am doing is creating pure intuition," Coffee said.

To describe the pieces in detail misses the point. They are tall, gold cylinders with azure tops with rings around then and could be interpreted in a thousand different ways. Coffee said they aren't designed to be something, nor did he sketch out an idea before creating them. He says they are like "a post-it note or a diary entry" which remind him of the exact moment he created them-what the weather was doing, how he was feeling, what smells were in the studio. To put it simply, Coffee takes his clay and glaze along as he heads down the rabbit hole of his own intuition.

"If artist would work there, in that place, everything they do would be original," Coffee said.

But what about satire and irony? To that, Coffee offers the "Rootless Jars."

In traditional ceramics, Coffee said, the artist is limited to creating a functional item, such as a jar or vase. This leaves little room for artistic expression. The Rootless Jars actually are jars with lids, stacked on top of each other. On top of one of them is a cup full of holes. While it is ceramic and cup-shaped, it could not perform as a cup if it tried. To Coffee its total lack of function is absurd, as is the lack of artistic freedom inferent in most traditional ceramics.

While pushing the envelope on ceramics, there is another intriguing idea bubbling up at Shy Rabbit.

The Coffees have purchased property down Bastille Drive from their current studio and have drawn up plans fo a 14,000 square-foot artist's center. The plans show a 4,000 square-foot ceramic studio, learning center and gallery and the remaining 10,000 square-feet to be used for artist studios. They envision an art center and campus with a sculpture garden out front.

The idea is based on the model developed by the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Santa Monica, Caliofornia from which Coffee graduated. He said when he started there it was a "self-directed community of students and professionals" and no one told them what to do. The successful students got the picture wuickly and chased after the intensely personal education the school had to offer. Others never grasped the idea and moved on.

"We're looking for commitment," Coffee said about the project and who they want to help them. "We want people who get it."

Far from looking for new jobs, the pair is putting out feelers for all the other dedicated artists in Pagosa Springs to come out of the woodwork and seize the opportunity to take their work to a whole new level.

"We want to reach out and get the energy flow going," said Denise Coffee.

The Coffees said the have not found an art center anywhere in the world that fits this exact model, so they plan to build their own. However, they will only proceed with the help of the many other working artists they believe are tucked away in Pagosa Springs and throughtout the Four Corners.

Both Michael and Denise have strong business backgrounds, having run their own companies and successfully navigated the world of architecture and design.

"We want to be facilitators, contributing our expertise in business and the art world," said Michael.

Densie added that they are advocating for artists by planning business/art workshops on topics like portfolio development, framing techniques and even critique sessions with other artists. She also hoped to host a speaker series and exhibits in the gallery that are driven by quality not by an event schedule.

Already there have been three artist salons to discuss the concept and gauge the enthusiasm for the project. The Coffees said that while they already have preliminary approval from the county and PLPOA, they will not proceed unless there is a band of passionate individuals driving the project with them. They will stay in their current studio until the need for more space bursts them out of it.

"We want to create a hub of creativity and energy." Denise said.

"Passion is the criteria," Michael added.

The next artist rountable to discuss art in general and the artist center in particular, will be held March 20th from 1-4 p.m. at Shy Rabbit Showroom and Ceramic Studio, 333 Bastille Drive, Suite B-1. Any artist or supporter of the concept is welcome to come and contribute.

For more information contact the Coffees at 970-731-2766 of by email at