Michelle Griffoul Studios
Tell us about your business.I knew that I always wanted to make my own money so I began sewing for the neighborhood at 13, making jewelry at 15 and pottery at 16 when I fell in love with clay. I was so passionate about making pottery that I dedicated all of my free time to learning how to become a potter. I started my own school with 3 students in each class (8 classes / week) when I was 17 to make enough money for my own materials. I began seriously designing and manufacturing tile in about 1982. I wanted to make tile like no one had ever seen, something that was a complete surprise on a floor yet durable and beautiful. Everyone told me I was crazy and it couldn't be done so that was fuel for my fire. I have learned how to make tiles in all shapes and sizes that defy tile as it had been known. Tiles that are leaves that just fell off of trees, fish, stars, palm trees. Murals up to 100'. I create almost all of our over 130 glazes for our porcelain tiles. I still feel very passionate about clay.
What makes your business stand out?Our business is unique in that we are The studio that a designer goes to who wants something unique and custom. We can create their ideas in their palette or usually, I design what we will make. All of our jobs are site specific. We lay out each mosaic for the specific installation. We prepare the tiles with a clear face tape and a layout map so the installer doesn't have to use a tile saw. Usually people will ask me to look at a site and after getting their input, I design what I think will be appropriate, textural, colorful and make them happy each time they look at it. I want them to be as passionate about commissioning me to make their tiles as I am about making them. They are buying artwork that is functional. After being a production potter for many years when I turned to tile I realized I can continue making functional art in a different format. Our customers call us repeatedly after their installation to comment on how surprisingly happy they are with their tile.
What's the best business advice you've received?The best advice that I have received is to continually learn more about the material, the process of making mosaics, the equipment necessary, installation and the customers. My Dad, a manufacturer of conveyor belts for factories told me to "let others help me" "ask good questions and really listen". I have worked in a traditionally male dominated business my whole life so I have had to be strong to let lots of chauvinistic attitudes be ignored so I could learn skills on operating hydraulic equipment, building my own kilns, welding, plumbing, etc. I was a single Mom with 2 children. I really had to make a living. I thought about teaching full time but I am so passionate about making things that I felt that teaching would detract from my ability to create. I was told "Do what you love and it will all work out". It was not easy but that resonated for me and kept me centered on creating new designs. I pass on that advice whenever I am mentoring a young artist.
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