Let's be honest, we didn't physically sit down with Nathan Michielson, that's so 4 months ago. We did however get a virtual peek into his inspiration and current call-to-action with his weekly newsletter, Artificial Turf.
By the time we post this interview, I believe you will be on your 13th issue of Artificial Turf. I would guess that in pulling inspiration you have some regular sites and magazines that are your go-tos, has this changed at all in the last month with the rise of the BLM movement? If so, in what way?
Nate : Minneapolis is home. As the George Floyd uprisings were happening at their peak semi trucks barreled towards groups of my most beloved friends and they all had to brush off that horror because their community needed them on mutual aid efforts around the city that same night. It felt wrong in the midst of it all to continue doing this little newsletter, so I took a pretty large break. Ultimately though, this newsletter represents the area of the world I want to be for the long haul and this is where I want my sphere of influence to be. Diversifying my role here is one part of anti-racist work I need to be doing.
Instagram is my primary source for inspo, so I’ve added accounts like @black.owned.everything, @superarchitectsofclr, @blackinteriordesignersnetwork, and multiple collegiate chapters of National Organization of Minority Architecture Students to my following list. I’m not only looking at what they’re posting, but I’m also going over to their “tagged” tab and looking at those trying to be highlighted on these pages. I’m now doing much more intentional sharing for the newsletter- making sure there are Black makers in every issue, and I am shifting my entire newsfeed to make it as easy as possible to make sure the content I’m consuming is diversified once it no longer becomes as easy as it is in this moment.
It’s no secret that the maker community hasn’t exactly carved out a space in the past for Black artists in their fairs, collectives, and marketing campaigns. This clearly has to change on every level from start-up funding to presence on our shelves as small businesses. Who are some of your favorite Black artists you’ve discovered during this collective effort to bring awareness and equality to maker culture?
Nate : Right off the bat, @yayasituation and @harvey.b.hrvi. Yaya Situation does these great vases with Cameroon-heritage inspired masks, and Hrvi’s silhouettes and glazes are truly to-die-for. @Estellecoloredglass glassware, @TheCoyCollection’s mugs with lil yellow smiley faces, and @ekuaceramic’s everything are great small goods. @ABlackGirlInWestElm is an incredible inspo page. @BisilaNoha, @Nur_Ceramics, @zizipo_poswa, and @UtilityObjects also deserve a mention.
What’s the biggest change up you have made to your living arrangements in light of staring at the same wall for hours on end during quarantine? You can’t tell me an aesthetically obsessed Taurus hasn’t made some big moves during all of this!
Nate : Okay so the 432sqft studio my partner and I were in just couldn’t cut it anymore. We sized up and put ourselves in a 700sqft one-bedroom and it has truly made all of the difference. With the addition, we now get a bedroom with closing doors and a growing (actively shrinking) dry bar. I also enrolled back in school and am now in an interior design program. This has been extra fun as now I get to buy expensive Japanese markers and can justify eBay bidding wars on a complete 20 year collection of Architectural Digest magazines. You know. For educational purposes.
Ok, let’s pretend you accidentally got a stimulus check for $12,000 instead of $1,200. How would you spend it if none of it could go towards bills?
Nate : A Vitra Jean Prouve Compas Desk. As close to 1953 production year as possible. And to buy out the winner of the aforementioned eBay bidding war.
I love the name of your newsletter, Artificial Turf. It’s creative and fun, yet incredibly on the nose at the same time. Was that all you or did you have anyone weighing in?
Nate : Okay so yes- there’s the reading of it that’s completely on the nose. We can go into some academic theory about humans being the only species to alter their landscape in aesthetic pursuit blah blah blah, but I promise thats only a fun byproduct of the actual naming reason. When I was in undergrad I was a gender studies major and took a furniture design class completely for fun (2015). But it was in that class that I realized furniture and home goods were for me and nothing else could ever compare so I changed my life to match. We had this semester long project where we needed to find a discarded chair in a dumpster, tear it apart, and design a new chair from the wreckage. I was at Home Depot picking up something else and ended up falling in love with the artificial turf out of the corner. So I got the smallest cutting of it they would allow and “upholstered” the chair with the turf. So yeah- there’s a theoretical meaning but also a historical homage.
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Header image credit: Supaform