We’re hoping to bring back the Q&A portion of Map & Menu to introduce our readers to some of the people we meet who inspire us the most. When brainstorming who we wanted to include in this series, the Portland ceramicist, Chloe May Brown, popped up in my head first. We’d chatted with her on multiple occasions in the More & Co. shop and have always enjoyed her aesthetic and keeping up with her work (and life with her adorable cats, Lila & Ollie ) on Instagram, but I have always hoped to get to know her better. I was so happy when she agreed to have me photograph her in her charming, light-filled West End studio earlier this spring.
Tell us a bit about yourself – your work, your role at More & Co., how you spend your time in Portland, etc.
I grew up in Maine and just about three years ago I was drawn back to the ocean. I now share my home with two cats, and my days between More & Co. and my ceramic studio.
At More & Co. I am a member of the small creative team. I enjoy contributing to many aspects of what we do. Some days I work to create new pieces for the shop, such as our Tidal Pool housewares. Other days I am bubble wrapping and packaging up orders to go out in the post!!
In my studio I create functional (and sometimes not-so-functional) ceramic pieces. I pinch and form the clay with my hands and finish each piece with hand glazed designs. I was first inspired to work with clay after seeing a ceramic necklace, basically a lump of clay on a string. It pushed my ideas of what clay could be. Today my favorite days are spent exploring these ideas and pushing myself to see what I can make out of a ball of clay.
What’s one destination on your travel bucket list?
Hmmm…. Japan! (How can I choose just one?)
Describe one of your most memorable trips?
One of the most memorable trips that I have taken was to central Pennsylvania when I was about 15. My mom took me to visit the farm that her and my dad owned and worked when I was born. A farm where they grew organic vegetables and flowers and raised goats. We moved when I was just six months old. It was an unfamiliar place, but one that felt to be a part of who I am.
It was the first time that I can remember feeling deeply connected to a landscape, a feeling that now thrills me when I have the chance to experience it.
What does your perfect day off in Portland look like?
My perfect day in Portland exists in the summertime! I leave my apartment on foot in the morning and don’t return home until the sun goes down. I love to meander around town, the West End is full of surprises in the summer, bits that I forget about after the long winter of staying bundled inside. I have my favorite gardens I like to check in on. I will eventually make my way towards downtown and grab a coffee at Speckled Ax. My favorite treat when I have a day off is to take the afternoon ferry ride around Casco Bay, the Mailboat Run is about three hours and it is the easiest way to get out of town for a bit and just relax! I will grab some cold beers and a few snacks from Standard Baking Co. and hop on the ferry. Once I am back on land I head right over to Drifters Wife and end my day with some wine and bite to eat.
Do you have any favorite day-trip destinations around Maine or New England?
Last fall one of my friends picked me up and we drove north up the coast. We did not have any plans of where we were going. We ended up at a small rocky beach full of tidal pools. It butted up against a forest full of mosses and lichen. It was somewhere I had never been before and somewhere I am not sure I could get back to. I love to explore Maine this way. There is so much beauty to see in just a day trip.
If you didn’t live in Maine, where would you call home?
I can not imagine anywhere other than Maine being home!
Are there any restaurants/hotels/shops that you’ve visited that have left an impression on you, aesthetically?
Chase’s Daily in Belfast is so simply perfect to me. I love the old storefront it inhabits on Main Street. The inside is simple, airy, and bright. Full of delicious food, a bakery counter, fresh produce and flowers from their farm for sale, and a rotating art exhibit — the loveliest mix. It has been inspiring for me to see the way that they use the space in multiple ways and still have a natural feel, it just seems right.
A favorite meal – something you enjoy cooking at home or a meal you’ve eaten out?
My favorite meal is from Lula Cafe in Chicago. I spent 4 years living around the block from it in Logan Square and their Beet Bruschetta and Pasta ‘Yiayia’ quickly became my favorite. When I think about Chicago, I think about this meal.
Name one thing that should be on our radar – a favorite artist, a new restaurant, a recent exhibit, a favorite shop or brand, etc.
I would LOVE to see the current exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern. I love the idea of viewing her art, alongside her clothing and images of her and her home. Such an incredible peek into her life and work!
What’s your favorite way to experience a new place?
I feel lucky when I have the opportunity to explore a new place on my own with no agenda. I don’t need to rush, and I can be open to whatever I come across! There is no pressure to do this or that. In many aspects of my life I like a plan, routines and deadlines, but the freedom I feel when traveling without any of this is unique.
A big thank you to Chloe for participating in our Q&A series! To see more of her work, be sure to visit her website and take a peek at her constantly evolving collection on More & Co. (A heads up – the High Street shop opens for the summer season on May 27th, when a brand new collection of Chloe’s work will be introduced. Her work sells quickly, so it’s worth setting a calendar reminder if you’re hoping to snag one of her pieces online.)
And if you’re not already following her on Instagram, be sure to do so – @cmb123! She has a fantastic eye and I personally love seeing how her two cats fit into the scene while she’s at work.
Photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.