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Meet Michele Ogilvie of Urban Didj and Burst Designs & Fine Art by Michele Ogilvie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michele Ogilvie.

Michele, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a Los Angeles based expressionistic artist that works with fabricated mixed media narrative constructions, sculpture, ceramics, painting, and drawing. For the past 25 years I have created and exhibited artwork that explores a variety of materials, process and existential concerns such as fate, chance, transience and loss. I am also a serious yoga & holistic health practitioner, and an art educator. I attribute the study of anatomy, meditation and mind/body/spirit interconnections as the inspiration for much of my recent work.

This also includes my interest in sacred instruments such as didgeridoos and pentatonic flutes. A few years ago, I launched “Urban Didj”, as an online venue for sharing and selling my instruments. More information about all of my work is available on my websites: http://www.micheleogilvie.com and http://www.micheleogilvie.com/instruments.html.

ROOTS:
I was born in Nakuru, Kenya during the rule of Jomo Kenyatta and the political uprisings against apartheid. I was initiated into a world of racial and economic disparity at a very early age. My mother was born in Antwerp and raised in Brussels, Belgium during World War II. My father, born in Kenya, was among the first British colonials of East Africa. We lived in Nairobi, but because of the brutal Mau-Mau rebellions and Kenya’s political unrest, we immigrated to the United States in the mid 60’s. I believe that my art aesthetic and philosophical influences are very much derived from my early years in Africa.

EDUCATION:
I earned my BA, plus MFA in Studio Art and CA Teaching Credential from CSUN. I have worked as a Graphic Designer, Special Projects Art Director, Illustrator, and Fine Artist. In addition to my business and studio practice, I have also taught classes at the secondary, and university levels such as Color Theory, Ceramics, 3-D Design, Studio Problems in Teaching Art, Photography, AP Studio Art, plus Drawing and Painting.

URBAN DIDJ SOUND PAINTINGS:
When I lived in Venice, CA in 1998 as a Fine Artist and Special Projects Art Director, I was fortunate enough to be coerced by a friend into taking my first yoga class on Main Street at Yoga Works with Saul David Raye. This ended up being one of those unpredictable experiences that changed the course of my life. I had already been practicing Transcendental Meditation since high school, however; it was asana, pranayama, kirtan and community that set me on the path as a spiritual seeker and holistic health practitioner. The more I studied, the more I began to draw similarities between Yoga and Art. My visual art aesthetic began to take a radical shift.

The first time I heard a didgeridoo and pentatonic flute, was in a Yoga class. I was immediately seduced into the mystical sounds and wanted to learn more. I bought my first handmade flute from Jonathan Wolf. It took me forever to get a single clean note out of it, but I was not going to give up. I bought my first bamboo Didgeridoo shortly after in Cabo San Lucas from an outdoor market. I began to study the art of instrument making through resources such as Kinko Shakuhachi’s One Maker’s Approach—Blowing Zen One Breath; One Mind by Carl Abbot/Center for Taoist Thought and Fellowship; Mud to Music by Barry Hall and most importantly Flutecraft by Mark Shepard. Through trial and error and experimentation I began to develop my own techniques using a variety of materials and processes.

The name “Urban Didj Sound Paintings” represents a break from tradition and is a nod to both sound and visual aesthetics, as each of these receives equal attention in my instruments. Sacred instruments such as udu drums, pentatonic flutes and didgeridoos have offered me a way to honor and express so much of what I have learned and practiced over the years about healing, yoga/pranayama and art.

In yoga, we seek to acknowledge the interconnections between mind, body and spirit. In art and music, there is inherently the same aspiration for many of us. I am forever grateful to all of my amazing teachers in art, yoga, and in life. I am in love with these instruments and all that they behold in the making and in the playing. I hope they will also offer people the healing potential of meditation, music and art.

WHAT IS A DIDGERIDOO?
The didgeridoo, (also know as yidaki, didgeridu, didjeridu) is deceivingly simple in its design. It is essentially a hollowed out tube. Although it can be made out of just about anything including PVC pipe, fiberglass, ceramic, hemp, hardwood, yucca and agave, it was traditionally made from bamboo as well as termite eaten eucalyptus branches. This drone type instrument has been around for approximately 40,000 years; however, the name didgeridoo has only been around for 100 years or so, (according to “The Word Didgeridoo article”). There are many cultures throughout the world that create sound by blowing through tube-like forms—yet Outback Australia is most noted for a distinct type of rhythmic drone and beat that incorporates emulations of nature such as tree frogs, dog barks, hyenas and bird sounds

WOMEN DIDGERIDOO PLAYERS AND MAKERS:
It is said that historically, primarily men played the didgeridoo. In certain parts of Australia, there are still whispers of a debate that asks whether women should be permitted to play the didge. As I understand it, this springs from some superstitions and rumors that suggest women will lose their fertility if they play the didgeridoo, particularly during sacred ceremonies. Traditions can be slow to change and in some circles, a woman didge player and maker still might carry a bit of a stigma. When I first started becoming interested in this instrument, I had no idea to what extent men popularized it.

Thankfully traditions that no longer serve inevitably evolve and change to reflect and serve a broader purpose. Today there are many brilliant and recognized male and female contemporary musicians who incorporate didge sounds and rhythms into the world, pop, beatbox, electronic and contra music as well as shamanic rituals and sound healing. It is really interesting to note that in some ways the study of yoga also holds a similar legacy.

Has it been a smooth road?
Of course, there are daily challenges in everything, but long ago I learned a sense of determination from my parents that has stuck with me throughout my life. The main thing that drives me is a sense of curiosity and a willingness to slow down and prioritize.

I make it a daily practice to seek balance above all else. Sometimes this means letting some opportunities go. I always feel that if things are truly meant to be, they will circle back around again. Life is short, so for me, health and family always comes first. My personal goal has always been to stay true to my creative self. It is difficult at times to do this in a culture that overflows with ‘feedback’ and critique, but in the end, we all have to recognize that there is no greater gift you can give to the world but to leap towards your dreams.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I work with galleries, interior designers, curators, and dealers to create, exhibit and sell my paintings, sculptures, ceramics and instruments. I also have an online site where a historical retrospective of my work can be viewed and purchased. I am proud to say that I am committed to producing one-of-a-kind pieces of art, as well as taking on commissions. What sets me apart is my vast and eclectic skill set in the areas of fine art and design.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Los Angeles is a great place for my business. It is so eclectic and offers many opportunities to branch out in all directions. I feel like people tend to be very open-minded here, so it is conducive to creativity and exploration. I have always been inspired by the cultural interconnections and diversity here. It is competitive no doubt, but I don’t see that as a problem. If you are willing to work hard and stay committed to your dream and talents, Los Angeles is the place to be.

Pricing:

  • • Didgeridoo price range: $400 — $1200
  • • Paintings range: $1800 — $4000
  • • Sculpture and Ceramics range: $200 — $8000

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Carine Clewis

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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