Thanks to his curiosity and steadfast interest in the arts, D. Michael Coffee began his art education long before he acquired his degree in Architecture in 1979. As a young boy, Coffee was constantly making things and derived great satisfaction from working with his hands. He visited museums regularly, and cultivated an early appreciation for the arts.
Coffee has been interested in ceramics since high school, where he served as a teaching assistant firing kilns, mixing glazes, and teaching himself to throw on the potter’s wheel. Although driven by an artist’s leanings, he chose to enter school to study Architecture. He applied and was accepted to the prestigious Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC). After concentrated study, he graduated with honors and set about establishing his own practice. Even though he committed himself to his practice and clients, he would come to realize that Architecture came with too many restrictions, which didn’t allow him to fully realize true artistic freedom.
In 1985 Coffee, while still a principal of Prats/Coffee Architects, Inc., began tirelessly developing a printmaking technique unique to him that he labeled “reductive ink” monoprinting. This method of printing allowed Coffee to create spontaneously, intuitively, and directly. Ink is applied on to the surface, selectively reduced and then transferred, via hand pressure, to handmade paper. This removes layers of ink from the surface and creates rich, tranquil imagery. To date, hundreds of his prints have been placed in public and private collections around the world.
In 1994 Coffee would finally return to ceramics, where he started twenty-five years earlier. He was clearly at the place in his artistic journey that he felt the most comfortable and inspired. He was finally able to work from pure instinct and intuition, honed from decades of study in design and aesthetics. He was able to work with materials that were simple, yet offered endless possibilities.
For D. Michael Coffee, limits don’t appear to exist. Every firing provides a unique opportunity to learn, if even from the failures. It is hard to say what feeds Coffee’s own internal flames, other than an overwhelming desire to create. He has exploded in a rage of creative energy, often working day and night to make up for what he laughingly refers to as a “waste of time”, all the while knowing that his ‘place in time’ would not be possible without the early parts of the journey. Hell bent on not regretting the paths that he’s taken, Coffee anticipates the next firing that will test his energies and soul.
The end result is a harmonious mixing of Architecture, paper and clay, thought and line, and the artist’s soul at play.