Maxine Midtbo, creator of Memor Studio talks about her collaborative process, pushing her work forward by slowing down, and maintaining clear intentions.
Photographs by Egan Parks
How did the idea for Memor happen? Can you explain a little what a Memory vase is?
I have been making vases (that became the foundation for Memor) for a while. I took a little over a month off social media at the end of the year last year. It was during that time that I opened up the mental space for Memor. It began with the simple recommitment to making and showing up, and it grew from there. A Memory vase is a form for holding together ephemera, objects, and remnants of daily life.
What kinds of things are you inspired by as an artist.
I look at a lot of fashion and antiques. I have always been interested in creating 3-dimensional form. It’s hard for me to say exactly why. It feels compulsory.
You seem to frequently work on collaborations with other artists. What do you hope to get out of those projects and how has your experience been with it?
The foundation of Memor is collaboration. Sometimes it means making a custom piece for someone using their objects. Other times I work with another artist or designer. The intimate connections you build when collaborating with someone are what continues to inspire my work. It gives meaning to studio work and brings community. I have been so lucky to work with a handful of fellow women business owners who have shown me patience, guidance, and support in making our vision come alive.
Did you know any of the people that you're collaborating with before starting Memor?
Some yes, but most no. Some I have reached out to and others to me. I try to respond to all emails and messages I receive. I cherish even the smallest of connections.
What are you working on currently?
Two projects I could not have imagined for myself, a short animated film and a wearable piece. I like to take on the occasional project that is outside of my comfort and scope of my daily work. I am grateful to those who can imagine Memor as a component of their own work, it pushes me.
What has that experience been like, translating what you do as a 3-dimensional object into something either 2-dimensional or wearable?
Artist Ian Anderson has been working on rendering an idealized environment for a Memor vase. The collaborative aspect of this project has been thinking about what that is, shifting the mindset away from the vase and to the space in which it could exist and interact with.
As for wearables, it has been rewarding to push the limits of my process to adapt to a piece that could take on human movement. A Memor vase has a very practical and utilitarian application but these wearable pieces seem more like performance art.
What would you like to do with Memor moving forward?
I’ve tried to make a practice of taking Memor one day at a time. Slowing down and saying yes to directions that feel right. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. I feel optimistic and trust that I am and will be where I need to be.
How do you navigate that process of slowing down? When you start something new it’s easy to be excited about it and want to do it all the time, sometimes to death, as well the compulsion to put something out every day in order to keep the world engaged in what it is that you’re doing. The “content vortex” always seems hungry. Is it more of a quality over quantity sort of mindset or is it something more holistic?
I am very excitable at the thought of a new project. It can be hard to think before wanting to act on every impulse. The reality of my process is that it’s impossible to streamline and make quickly because each piece is handmade and requires a certain amount of time. I also put time and thought into collecting for each piece. The process does not lend itself to a factory type model of creating, therefore it is inherently “slow”. Instead of trying to find ways to optimize or speed up the process, I just embrace it. Practically speaking, I set very conservative and reasonable deadlines for myself, I leave space in my day for reading, walking, and reflecting. Although I strive for engagement on the platforms in which I share Memor, I also strive for authenticity in engagement, which is authentically slow. I’ve been surprised at how receptive my collaborators and customers are to this notion.
Any advice to people who might have an idea for something but not really know where to start or how to get it off the ground? Anything you’ve learned along the way that in hindsight you might have done differently?
If you have an idea, trust yourself and simply start. Eliminating excess, distraction, and noise can help make space for this. Every day has been a teaching moment since starting Memor. The greatest tool I am taking advantage of now is the practice of slowing down which is something I wished I had learned in the very early days. Focusing on what I have in front of me physically allows me to continue to enjoy the act of working with my hands. My personal growth and growth within Memor is dependent on the feedback from others and my willingness to receive it. Slowing down has made me more attuned to this aspect of growth and with my intentions moving forward.
- Egan Parks
Memor is inspired by mosaic arts and the practice of collecting as it presents in various art forms throughout history. Adorned in talismans, jewelry, findings, glass, tile, coins, shells, etc. These vessels epitomize our nostalgic relationship with objects.
Maxine Midtbo is the maker behind Memor. She is a multidisciplinary artist based in Cincinnati, Ohio where she lives with her husband and two pets. You can find her work at www.shopmemor.com and on Instagram at @memor_studio