Here’s Why Michael Harvey’s Deceptively Simple Ceramics Are Turning Heads Everywhere


A large ceramic tank vase by Michael Harvey on a table

Photo: Margaret Kelley 

A ribbed tank top, a cardboard box, a berry carton. What might seem like a collection of ordinary objects found in cluttered living spaces happens to be a running list of ceramicist Michael Harvey’s former muses. Over the past six months, the work of the Canadian artist—who hasn’t sold new sculptures since the 1980s—has grown ultra-popular among interior decor enthusiasts.

Michael’s output is limited enough that it can be hard to track down his work, but not so rare that it’s impossible. Once you’re in the know about where to look, it’s easy to spot one of his works—his art is understated and his purview specific, bringing to mind the painter Alex Colville, whose work is similarly bucolic and also surprisingly contemporary. Beyond the aforementioned ceramics, Harvey has also molded vases in the form of gardener’s boots, paper bags, faux denim baseball caps, and gloves, all with an attention to detail that will induce a double take.

The Harvey ceramics are something of a predecessor to the work of similarly playful (and popular) contemporary ceramicists like Original Rose and Group Partner. Original Rose’s works are an accidental metropolitan update of Harvey’s, with a wide range of head-turning planters modeled after sneakers, ball caps, and coffee cups. Group Partner’s work is certainly more cartoonish than OR’s and Harvey’s realist representations, but they share an attractive cheekiness.

“Harvey’s work is a neutral Pop art, and it’s a conversation starter,” says Kaleila Ahulani of Doily Heart LA. “Whatever style you have, whether [your space is] kitschy or very masculine—wood paneling, brown leather—it could fit in there, so I think that that’s where the attraction is.”

One of Michael Harvey’s gardener-glove ceramic vases.

Photo: Kaleila Ahulani 

Doily Heart LA’s product shot of the gardener-glove vase with a small floral arrangement.

Photo: Kaleila Ahulani 

Beyond just the aesthetic, the fact that Michael Harvey no longer makes ceramics is, for some, the biggest thrill of collecting them. “There’s a mysterious excitement about the artist himself,” says Margaret Kelley of Round Plump Apple. “I think that all of that adds to the allure of his pieces and the fact that they’re so hard to come by.”

Since finding his first Michael Harvey pieces—a tank-top vase and a paper-bag vase—four years ago, Nathan Needle of N.R. Needle has been an admirer. He has since resold 10 of Michael’s pieces, all of which were snapped up within a day. “The moment you post it, you get inquiries,” he says. “I made my little foster home of Michael Harvey stuff, and then it moves on to a happy home.”

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