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commercial art. “[It] sounded better
than studio art. Studio art is ‘starve.’
Commercial art is ‘a profession,’ and you
can actually get a job.”
During his studies, a classmate offered
to buy one of Quinn’s pieces—a cookie
jar shaped like a giant Anaconda eating a
“I told him it was $5. He gave me $20. I
was inspired,” he says. Quinn graduated
expelled from school, Quinn decided the
confines of an academic corral were not
for him. He earned his GED and enrolled
in Texas State University in 1987 where
he majored in veterinary medicine.
Two years into the program, Quinn
was at a crossroads. “I love animals, but
castrating pigs wasn’t my thing. I don’t
enjoy being around an animal in distress,
and I don’t want to be the source of
that. I also couldn’t pass algebra,” he
laughs. “My advisor said, ‘You will never,
ever, ever be a veterinarian. You need to
drop out of the program.’”
At first Mike was taken aback by the
bluntness of his advisor’s statement,
but soon he realized that it was the best
thing that had ever happened to him
because it also made him remember
his innate talents. “I thought, ‘Well,
I know I’m good at art. I can do art,’”
he remembers. In order for his dad to
accept the idea, he decided to pursue
with a degree in commercial art and
went out into the world to sculpt a
career as a commercial artist. But as it
turned out, “I was really bad at that, too.
So, I did my own thing, and ceramics
took off for me.”
Quinn headed back to the studio and
began churning out his now trademark
fanciful, sometimes ferocious, and always
charmingly quirky clay creations. Before
long, opportunity came knocking—and
then pounding—on his door.
“My big break happened in January
1991. I got a six-week art show in Chuy’s
Comida Deluxe, one of the most popular
restaurants in Austin. That six-week art
show turned into 18 years. The business
was booming. We were producing 200
fish a day, and it wasn’t enough.” Word
spread, and his collection entitled
with Attitude
began to swim into the
“We ended up in about 150 stores
Local sculptor Mike quinn
MARCH 2017 |
Out & About |
Artist spotlight