Mike Helke



Mike Helke grew up in Minnesota’s St. Croix Valley where he still resides with his wife and two sons in Stillwater, MN. Since receiving an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University-Alfred, NY in 2011 he has taught at various institutions including Carleton College-Northfield MN, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and the University of Wisconsin—River Falls, WI where he has been an Assistant Professor—Ceramics Program Director since 2018. In addition to family and teaching, Helke maintains a full-time studio practice in his home studio. This practice/research has been exhibited, presented, and published all over the country at organizations including but not limited to Harvard University-Boston, MA, the Anderson Ranch Art Center-Snowmass Village, CO, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft—Houston, TX, the Museum of Contemporary Craft-Portland, OR, and The Weismen Art Museum-Minneapolis, MN. Helke is a two-time Carleton College Dayton Hudson Distinguished Teacher/Artist recipient and has received grant awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board as well as the Jerome Foundation. In 2020 Helke was a United States Artist Fellowship nominee.

Artist Statement

Any source or experience could be the precursor to what physically happens in my work: During a recent kitchen remodel I found myself working with wood for the first time. The directness and predictability of this building process was different from working with clay—my lack of both tools and carpentry skills served as limits to how I could use the wood. I was intrigued by the complexity of this minimalized language.

This idea of limits makes me wonder: How might it translate in clay and what would this translation mean for an object? As a maker, the action of my hand can trace the memory or energy of an experience through illusive rhythms generated by form, positive and negative shapes, and building process marks. This unpredictability prevents a sense of austerity and instead gives the work an unassuming but active sensibility. This can inspire a sensory response, visually and tactilely, offering a sense of pleasure, visually and conceptually, both for me as the maker and for the user. Instead of a lasting feeling of happiness, this state provides a momentary relief and a feeling of delight—a temporary sensation, almost, but not quite tangible or definable; a lively sensation made seductive by its fleetingness.

Each piece physically and conceptually records an animate sensibility derived from my experiences. This record is the catalyst for a call-and-response relationship that exists between the maker, object, and user.

More information about Mike can be found at: mikehelke.com

IG @mike_helke_pottery