Party for Plankton: West Elm Introduces a New Collection by Maria Moyer in LA

The Plankton Series by Maria Moyer – a collection of matte white ocean-inspired porcelain vessels benefiting Oceana – are introduced at West Elm.

NYC-based artist Maria Moyer is obsessed with plankton. Combine that with a deeply rooted love of white, organic shapes and the ocean and you have all the ingredients for her recently launched collection for West Elm. The Plankton Series is a collection of matte white porcelain vessels and highlights the intricate structures of the foundation of the Earth’s food chain, and 5% of the purchase price goes toward helping non-profit Oceana protect the world’s oceans.

Artist Maria Moyer at the launch party for her collaboration with West Elm and Oceana

In-store display of the Plankton Series at West Elm in West Hollywood

West Elm threw a pre-Earth Day party at their West Hollywood outpost on Thursday in celebration of the collaboration and I got to chat with some of the people involved in making it all happen.

I always wonder how these collaborations come about, so I asked Maria Moyer how it all started: “Most of my work is in one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces that I build one at a time. I started a body of work over a year ago that was ocean inspired. It included several references in texture and form to plankton – a lifetime love. Around the same time, West Elm asked me design a collection for them. While I don’t usually make things that are functional, I saw the opportunity as a great learning experience in a new role as a designer and I was moved by the idea that the West Elm audience could reach a significantly larger population than my one-piece-at-a-time creative process.”

The scene at West Elm in West Hollywood

“We look for artists we like and respect, who are creating interesting designs that we think our customers will respond to,” said Abigail Jacobs, Vice President, Public Relations & Brand Marketing at West Elm. “Collaborations add to the diversity of our product mix and make our product offering richer. They allow us to bring in new and unique points of view, and experts in techniques that we might not be able to produce with our in-house design team. Nature, and the sea, is such a meaningful and constant place of inspiration for us, and yet we’d never seen a collection inspired by plankton,” says Jacobs. “Maria’s work is first of all stunning, but the collaboration also gave us the opportunity to educate our customer through the story of her process and inspiration. The partnership with Oceana made that connection even more real.”

Moyer with her cousin

“The great part about partnering with Maria and West Elm,” says Jessica Champness, Manager, Major Gifts at Oceana, “is that the inspiration – plankton – are such a fundamental component of healthy oceans and are inherently connected to Oceana’s overarching campaigns, which include mitigating impacts from climate change, promoting responsible fishing and protecting habitat. West Elm has a compelling and authentic design story to showcase and, in doing so, they not only raise funds but help promote Oceana’s work to a new group of potential activists and donors who can start creating conversations about important ocean conservation issues within their own unique communities and encourage people to get involved with Oceana. Any new supporters gained from these efforts translate into a stronger base of support for Oceana to engage in grassroots advocacy, recruit volunteers and raise critical funds,” says Champness.

The visual inspiration is apparent – the amazingly intricate structure of plankton

“I’m grateful to West Elm for giving me what I have been calling a Plankton Pulpit, as I hope to spread the news about the little guys,” says Moyer. “If it doesn’t grab you that these microscopic plants and animals give us half the world’s oxygen (which, by some accounts, is more than our forests), you might also like to know they feed most of Earth’s creatures: from shrimp to whales and the 3 billion humans who depend on fish and seafood. Add to that, the startling and exquisite beauty of plankton – from diatoms to algae to microscopic animals. I’ve found a universe of aesthetic rapture that I want people to know about.”

It’s a beautiful, synergistic collaboration that lures you in with pure aesthetics but forces you to look deeper at the inspiration behind it. Plankton are the trees of the ocean and without them we would not be where we are today. Every time I place a candle in one of my gorgeous new tealights, I will thank them for all the great work they do while I watch the small rays of light dance across the table.

Photos courtesy of Maria Moyer and West Elm

Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.