Photos, words and video by Olivia Bauso
For Michelle Testa, inspiration comes in the most natural of ways: through science!
Michelle is the maker behind Rochester Rock Shop, where she designs rock-coated pots, mosaic birdhouses and lab beaker terrariums for fellow rock lovers. As a seventh grade science teacher and nature geek, Michelle is called to create constantly. She says, “Science is truly my inspiration. Springtime is my favorite, when everything goes from being a grey, slushy ice cube to exploding with color. It’s just so pretty!”
Michelle is a Rochester native and attended SUNY Geneseo and Nazareth College for Geologic Sciences and Adolescent Education. “I have a lot of Roc pride,” she laughs. She continues, “I love the Rochester community and hope that I will always be teaching here and be creating here too.”
Although her scientific background fuels her soft spot for rocks, Michelle’s real interest stems purely from aesthetics. She explains, “People always expect me -- because I’m a geologist -- to love rocks because of their scientific make-up, but really most of my rock collection has come to be because it’s just pretty!” Michelle has found that this is the case with most of her customers. She adds, “People just like picking up a rock on vacation and taking it home with them. I love hearing others’ stories about their own collections.”
Michelle first stumbled upon her talent about four years ago during her first summer after grad school. She found that she had a lot of time and nothing to fill it with, so she began experimenting with grouting rocks onto terracotta pot. She says, “It all started with rocks on pots and sort of spiraled from there. I began putting rocks on anything I could think of before really defining what went with my style and what other people would enjoy.” Since then, Michelle has really established her science garden style, exploring with different rocks, patterns, shapes and mosaics.
While science and art are often juxtaposed, Michelle finds similarities between the two parts of her life. She says, “I really think about science, teaching and art as all being interrelated. There’s a lot of exploring and trying and just seeing what happens next, and that’s sort of how my artistic style has developed too.” Much like experimenting in a lab, Michelle uses trial and error while making her pots and bird houses. She adds, “I’ve always been creative and crave that sense of trying something new.”
For Michelle, Rochester Rock Shop will always be her side-gig. She explains, “I think this is always going to be a hobby. I just love teaching and I love creating, and I see this as an extension of my teaching. It’s a little bit of geology and sharing of scientists, so I’m grateful that people are receptive to it!”
The Rochester Rock shop has items at Fingerlakes Artisans in the Phoenix Mills Plaza in Victor and at Little Button Craft in the a South Wedge of Rochester, and pops up at local Rochester craft shows.
Michelle will be popping up at our Brainery Bazaar on June 9th along with lots of local vendors, the Knit Buffalo truck and live music from Julia Egan.