Melissa Goldstein creates a garden of earthy delights with MG by Hand, her line of hand-painted porcelain ceramics. Her cobalt and white platters, vases, dishes, and bowls capture the nuances of plants: the curve of a petal, the graceful line of a leaf, the intricate patterning of a blossom. “I love things that grow and evolve,” she says. “The idea of transformation is very seductive.”
Goldstein’s passion for the natural world stems from her childhood, when she would venture into the forest to gather mushrooms with her father and the composer John Cage. They taught her how to collect spores from mushroom caps, look at the designs the spore prints made, and inspect the gills to know which fungi were edible. “This early exposure to the infinite varieties within nature was magical, and a gift I have carried throughout my life,” she says.
Now it’s her Brooklyn garden that provides her with endless inspiration. Most mornings during the growing season you’ll find her outside, cultivating roses, peonies, and poppies. As she weeds and deadheads, she also carefully observes each plant to incorporate into her ceramics later.
Another source of inspiration is art: paintings, such as Fairfield Porter’s collection of “messy tables,” still-lifes by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, and a wide range of botanical illustrations. A keen researcher (she’s a sought-after photography consultant, with clients including The New Yorker magazine, Calvin Klein, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation), Goldstein can spend hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s library, “which amazingly is open to anyone,” poring through books—volumes of original Japanese woodblock botanicals, for instance. “It’s a festival of gorgeousness,” she says. She also explores early English and German botanical drawings and has recently become smitten with Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta (2020, Getty Publications), a handwriting sampler from the 16 th century made for Emperor Ferdinand Hapsburg, embellished with exquisite botanical illustrations by Joris Hoefnagel.
Once she’s decided on what plant to depict, she lets it guide her on the form it will take. “I get obsessed with a flower and know pretty quickly how it will fill the object,” she says. “Right now, I am longing for that cinnamon scent of dianthus, and am determined to make a giant platter with one spiraling out from the center.” And so her garden grows.
Photography by Melissa Goldstein, unless otherwise noted.
- Living Rooms: Botanical Artist Flora Roberts’s Poetic Wallpaper from Hamilton Weston
- Artist Visit: Kaori Tatebayashi’s Ceramic Garden
- Dog Walk Diary: How I Became an Accidental Leaf Artist