Michael-Birch Pierce

Visiting an artist’s studio is a precious gift, and visiting the studio of fiber artist Michael-Birch Pierce is a special kind of awesome. His studio, in an old warehouse on Mayo Island in the middle of the falls of the James River in Richmond, Virginia, is a sensuous experience. Shimmering crystals and sequins spill from every surface, and sumptuous fur, velvet and lace are piled in every corner. Michael-Birch uses these materials in his work, drawing on his background in fashion design to exquisitely craft sculptural pieces that challenge to viewer to think deeply about the identity that we wear. At the same time, Michael-Birch recognizes the courage of vulnerability as a way to claim who we are and connect authentically with others.

Michael-Birch’s lush and revealing work is a part of the current costume and textiles exhibition at The Valentine, Our Hearts on Our Sleeves. The brilliant Kristen Stewart, curator of the show, joined me in his studio for a joyful conversation about art.

I started the think about the artificiality of the materials that I am using. . . . Taking things that are all about artifice, all about building a lie . . . and looking at those as a way to build intimate moments. . . . I really want to build a whole crazy world out of these rhinestones that, when I’m looking at them, I’m thinking about them in the way that Frank Gehry would build a structure out of aluminum for a museum. . . . What would it be like if I was walking around inside these rhinestones?”
— Michael-Birch Pierce

Paige hosts the LookSEE podcast and is a freelance audio producer, an art lover, and a lifelong Richmonder. Her favorite place to be is in a museum. A close second is a bookstore.