Where are they now: Michael-Birch Pierce
Welcome to the first feature in our new series of interviews with inspiring brands, Where Are They Now? We’ll be checking in with past clients to see what life has been like since launching a brand.
First up, we’re chatting with the one of a kind artist and long time friend Michael-Birch Pierce. We collaborated with Michael-Birch back in 2015 to develop a professional brand identity as he worked to grow his career in art and embellishment.
Here’s what Michael-Birch Pierce is up to now:
It’s been about four years since Campfire & Co. wrapped up your branding, what does your business look like these days?
MBP : My business still looks about the same, I suppose. I’ve just been diving into making the portrait work more of a sustainable, full-time endeavor. I’ve expanded my studio space on Mayo Island, honed my Instagram content and online presence, and am traveling to exciting portrait events much more often.
My goals are to continue doing what I’m doing and push for greater national and international recognition of this work.
For our readers who are unfamiliar, can you share a sentence or two about who you are and what your brand offers?
MBP : I am a textile artist with a focus on embroidery and embellishment. I have both a fine art studio practice, hand embroidering elaborate work and also a performative practice, where I embroider live portraits with a home sewing machine.
How has your brand supported you over the past few years?
MBP : The branding that Campfire did for me has allowed me to transform my image and market myself to major clients with bigger and bigger budgets. My previous website and identity were both pretty slapped together and not thoughtful in any way. Christina set me up with really sharp gold foiled business cards, a beautiful site, a convenient PDF of available services, streamlined email addresses with my own url, and all of it helps me present myself to companies and clients as someone who knows what the hell I’m doing.
Since the rebrand, I’ve been able to quadruple my rates and land big clients like Visa, Target, and NBC Universal while still offering essentially the same services.
When you are working, what is the go-to atmosphere?
MBP : When working in my studio, I’m generally just hanging out by myself, windows open (no matter what time of year), a glass of rosé (no matter what time of year), a podcast or dumb Netflix show playing, and just stitching at my table for literally hours on end. Sometimes for brief breaks for nude selfies in my pile of antique mirrors.
When working embroidered portrait events, the situation is very different. The set up is simple, just me at a table with my sewing machine and a line of people waiting to sit for me. Generally this is at a loud party with crowds gathering around to watch, but for 3-5 minutes, I just sit there studying the subject’s face, having a one on one conversation, and making a brief exciting connection. Where as the studio work can take months to complete, each portrait is done in a few minutes and then I never see it again.
You’ve been collaborating a lot with SCAD. How does your alumni status impact your career?
MBP : Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) has been incredible for my career. In my first quarter in grad school, I was chosen for the honor of embroidering Blue Room Christmas Tree decorations for the Obama White House. During my time there, I caught the attention of the university President, Paula Wallace, and have been given countless other opportunities to push my artistry to its limits and travel the world. It is her support that got me to explore large scale sequined installation art and has sent me to France and Hong Kong to represent the university and grow as an artist. Any opportunity I have to create new art for the university or to get to work with SCAD students, I immediately say yes to. I literally would not have this career at all without SCAD’s support.
You’ve been exploring a lot of new methods and materials. What has been your favorite medium to create with recently?
MBP : Experimenting with fur has been such a wild journey in my work. I haven’t eaten meat in 23 years and have always been morally opposed to the fur industry. My studio work is all about identity, artificiality, and how our interior self differs from our exterior self. At a certain point in the research, it became clear that I needed to use actual skins to create the abstract portraiture. I try to always use salvaged furs to keep the sourcing ethical but it really is such a huge departure from anywhere I ever saw myself going creatively.
I see a lot of booty on your instagram feed, can you share some insight on your inspiration behind the tasteful mirror selfies?
MBP : Haha! That work all centers back to my research on identity and representation. I think that as a non-binary person I deal with a lot of dysmorphia and obsess over the way I’m seen and the way I see myself. The nudity is I suppose a way to address identity with authenticity and vulnerability but the multiple mirrors distort and rearrange that body. The poses in both those images and my nude embroideries are based in a background in gymnastics and some dance - poses that evoke both strength and control but also vulnerability.
Also, I’ve been doing a lot of squats and my ass looks great now so why the hell not.
What’s up next for MBP?
MBP : I’m currently working on a few contracts for new gigs that would have me doing portraits in LA, New York, Vegas, and Nashville. Nothing has been set in stone yet but I’ll post announcements when any public event gets a confirmed date.
I’m also working on a few new studio pieces for a show called LIBERTE/COURAGE at the 34th International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Fashion Accessories in Hyères, France this April.