Interview: Michael Wisner, Eco-conscious Ceramicist

1. “The Element” collection in collaboration with Newton Vineyard is not only eco-chic and beautiful but an innovative way for artists to work with other brands. How did the idea doing the collaboration come about?

Newton Vineyard has a real appreciation for the arts and is always looking for a way to draw attention to Newton’s sustainable practice. They search out artists that are not only inspired by the beauty of the vineyard and the eco-conscious practices of the wine makers, but artists who design pieces that enhance the wine in which it is inspired from.

The collection is made from the clay in Newton’s Carneros Winery, how was it to work with the clay from that region?

For the past 20 years I have worked with clay all over the world. And in those 20 years, I have come to recognize what makes great clay. When I visited Newton, I had no idea what to expect. As soon as I touched the clay, I knew it was something special. And when I brought it with me to my studio, I came to realize that this clay is in the top five percent of all clays I have ever worked with. Newton’s Carneros clay’s malleability and the way it fires to a pure white is truly exceptional.

2. How long did it take you to design the whole collection?

The process of designing “The Element” began last July with my visit to Newton Vineyard. While visiting, I was inspired by the vineyards dedication to their sustainable practices and also the true craftsmanship of the wines. It also helped that the clay was so fantastic to work with. During the course of five months, I designed around 40 prototypes to find the best that complimented the Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay. By November, we settled on the final design which, in turn, took five months of production. The Element is truly a collaboration between Newton Vineyard, winemaker Chris Millard and myself. I love the idea that the clay I have used to showcase Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay is the very same clay that nurtured the grapes before they came wine. It’s like a life cycle. This actual clay fed the vines that produced the grapes that are in the bottle chilled by The Element. To me, that says more about sustainability and harmony with nature than anything else about this collaboration.

3. Did you stay at the winery through the whole design process?

I spent one intensive week of tours and tastings at the vineyard last July. The folks at Newton Vineyard were very gracious hosts. They spent all seven days showing me around, explaining the winemaking process and letting me go on my own to explore the land. The vineyard is so incredibly beautiful and serene; it was hard for me to leave.

4. Where are the pieces sold?

You can purchase “The Element” exclusively at http://newtonvineyard.com

5. Would you collaborate with Newton Vineyard on another collection of ceramics?

No question! The collaboration with Newton was so organic. I really enjoyed not only the incredible wine and beauty of the land, but also the people behind Newton. These are true artists who let the wine speak for itself.

6. Do you believe that eco-conscious designs are becoming more and more relevant in today’s lifestyle?

Oh yes, and they have to be. People are turning to a greener way of living since they are now seeing that it is much more sustainable in the long run. I believe that consumers are beginning to understand the long-term benefits of sustainability and are starting to be more aware of what they are purchasing and supporting. To me, this is not a trend; this is a way of life. The great thing about Newton Vineyard is that it was eco-conscious even back in the 70s before everyone else. They are the pioneers when it comes to sustainable vineyards.

7. Where do you see the future of eco-conscious designs going?

I believe that everyone will either subscribe to this way of life or not survive. People are much more educated about the environment than they previously were. I believe that now more than ever people think about their effect on the environment when designing not only art, but any and every product.

About the Author:  Taisa Veras is the founder of AMAHZING, a fashion blog.  Veras is also an Editorial Writer and Fashion Assistant at StartUp FASHION, as well as a blogger for WWDMAGIC.  You can follow Veras on Twitter@AMAHZING_ or @TaisaVeras.

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