Being In A Tourist Town | Michelle Valigura | Episode 877

Michelle Valigura | Episode 877

Michelle Valigura is a sculptor, with a primary focus on ceramics. Her background designing for stop motion animation (including Elf, and the Simpsons) and her love of mid century design have built a foundation for a strong sense of color and aesthetics that can be seen translated in her work. In 2007 she formed her own design company Switcheroo, which led to licensing her work to to Disneyland, Kidrobot, Paradise Toys, and other art brands. She has exhibited her work, lectured and taught workshops at galleries, museums, and universities worldwide. In 2019 Michelle moved back to her roots in the Pacific Northwest where she opened Basalt that functions as her working studio and showroom in downtown Cannon Beach. Along with her work she features other artists and crafts of locals and people she has met in her career that she admires.


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Does one season define the rest of the year in terms of your income?

I would say no. I would say yes and no. I really work hard at diversifying and trying to find other things to fill time. I started a festival here called Puffin Days and the tufted puffin comes and nests every April and there are also about four pot shops in town so I got the pot shops to back the festival and it’s basically a fund-raiser to help research the puffins and also people just come and learn to forage mushrooms and wild forage foods as well as other events.  This next year we will probably have music and more stuff so Puffin Days starts on four twenty. (laughter) So people can come and learn about Puffins.

How critical is location in a tourist town?

Yes and no, again I think that people will find you. And especially with social media I think people will find you and I don’t think if you are a little bit higher end you don’t want people just blindly walking in, you want people to be like, yeah you want to be discovered, but you want people to understand and appreciate.

Is it hard for you as a newbie to be considered a local by the tourists?

It is kind of weird actually.(laughter) I had dinner with a long-time local last night, it’s like there just about excited as they are to see an elk. Are you local? And then it gives them hope that other people are local. There’s not a lot of us.

You have other artist’s work in your store. Is that super helpful to have those collaborative sales to make ends meet?

Absolutely. Yeah, I can’t keep up. The leather shop that I was talking to you about before, the gal that has had it for forty years, she was like, You need to have more stuff in there. You need to take the pressure off of yourself. I used to do that and make all the belts and leather, you just need to have more and more stuff in there. She was right. It really, really helps having extra things that I love and that I can get behind.

Has being a person who has gotten involved in community has that made a difference in terms of being accepted by the local community?

Probably not. (laughter) There’s a saying here that if you hang out in enough bars you will eventually be mayor so…(laughter) . Yeah, probably no, I don’t think necessarily but a few people have been like, Oh I like what you said.  And some people do appreciate it because public service is kind of a thankless job.

What do you do when you are not working in a tourist town? Do you go do touristy things?

What’s a touristy thing here? Most locals don’t really hang out on the beach. We all go for a walk in the woods, mostly. (laughter) What do I do? Well tonight I am going to a potluck. It’s a bouillabaisse potluck. Fish-based soup. There’s a lot of potlucks.


Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings 

Educated by Tara Westover 


Instagram: @michellevaligura     @basalt_studio

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