Thursday, October 21, 2010

Melissa Schmidt: : glass + jewelry

Today we are visiting the studio of Melissa Schmidt.  It is glorious! 
And surprising. Everything is white and there are inspiration pieces, but only a few, dispersed throughout the room.
Melissa has had this space (behind her garage) for more than five years but tells me she can't stop calling it, "The Shed."
She started designing jewelry more than 17 years ago - she loved this medium immediately and soon began making her own glass beads.
Three years ago, she started making her signature glass bubbles. Melissa creates small, glass globes and then combines them to make one-of-a-kind earrings, bracelets and necklaces.
Her inspiration for this construction came from vintage pearl buttons that she found on an antique dress. She bought all of the buttons and experimented until she created a way to replicate their structure in glass.
Here are some of her early attempts. 
Melissa shares her home with her husband and son (who is also a budding artist). She shares her studio with her two dogs, Scruffy and Frida.
The studio does not have heat or air conditioning. Winter months are challenging and Melissa tries to put in 20-minute sessions with the company of a space heater and a lot of layers.
 When the weather cooperates though, you will find Melissa out here every day.
Her kiln was a gift from her husband, and she had it for years before she had a place to put it.
Melissa uses two kinds of glass to create her bubbles: tube glass borosillicate (also known as "Pyrex") and tube rods. Both types are needed to find the perfect balance of thickness and "lightness" so that the piece feels bubble light, but is strong enough to be dropped.
Yes, you read correctly: dropped. Melissa attends 10 art shows a year and people often return to tell her stories of how her jewelry survived being accidentally dropped on slate floors, concrete, etc. If a bubble does break, Melissa replaces it.
Melissa has two favorite quotes that act as her mantras: "The best way to predict your future is to create it." and "Art saves saved mine."
Melissa's mother died two years ago, and Melissa knew she wanted her creative space to also feel like a shrine. "My mother taught me that you can make jewelry out of anything," Melissa said. 
Her mom had an amazing art jewelry collection with pieces constructed from non-traditional and eclectic paper, ephemera and beads. (She even has a piece constructed from animal bladders.)
Melissa created this necklace for her mother's 60th birthday - it's 60 pictures of her mother throughout her life. Melissa often puts film, paper, silk flowers and other miniature items in her beads.
So her studio is also a place of respite and remembering. I'm so delighted she shared it with me (us)! 

If you live in Philadelphia, you can see Melissa's art in person
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 11 to 14.

Thank you Melissa!

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