Artist Spotlight: Melissa Mencini

It really is the rare bird who can traipse back and forth between the world of sculpture and functional pottery with ease. Perhaps therein lies the misconception, “ease” plays no part in it. Rather a dedication to content and artisanship are the constant companion to a maker who keeps every tool sharpened and at the ready to explore and express and create as needed when needed. These are the makers we can rely upon as keepers of the craft. Melissa Menicini is such a maker. Of course, those who might receive such lauding, would never claim to deserve it, but we think when you read the training and thoughtfulness behind her work, you’ll definitely agree and will want to own a piece of mastery by Mencini.

NCC is proud to carry Mencini's jewelry work in the sales gallery. Buy it online here.

NCC: Tell us about your work.
MM: I make functional pottery that investigates the subtlety within form, function and the intimate moment of a pot being used. The embellishment and decoration of the surface creates the opportunity for the user to form a unique relationship with my work that is often times based on their own personal memories. I use images within popular culture to push and challenge the user’s expectations of visual and literal interaction of functional pottery.

NCC: Where do you make your work?
MM: I make my work in my studio that’s a separate building located in my backyard.

NCC: How long have you been making?
MM: I’ve been making work for as long as I can remember. As a small child, I would draw on the insides of closet doors and underneath tables when I would run out of paper. I was continuously enrolled in art and/or dance lessons starting at five years old and since receiving my BFA (2000) and MFA (2003) in ceramics, I haven’t stopped making work or challenging myself.

NCC: Are there other ways you supplement your professional activities?
MM: I teach continuing education ceramics classes at The Art School at Laguna Gloria that is part of the contemporary museum here called The Contemporary Austin.

NCC: What do you love the most about making your work?
MM: The challenge of clay, discovering new forms, techniques and surfaces is what I love the most about making pottery. I have a bit of wanderlust when it comes to making and so the knowing that new discoveries are right around the corner when I really push myself keeps me engaged and excited with the process. Two times a year I build in a couple of months dedicated to discoveries and most importantly failures. Most people view failure as a negative thing but I view it as the opportunity to learn, to push and to explore without the fear of deadlines.

NCC: What is the hardest part?
MM: The hardest part of making my work is the delicate balancing act of wearing all of the hats of running a small business and still having time to make work.

NCC: What are the goals for the future of your work?
MM: My future goals are to push and challenge myself into new discoveries within form, patterns and depth of surface on my pots.

NCC: What do you view as your biggest achievement so far?
MM: Hands down, building my studio at home. It might not sound huge for some but only having to walk through my yard to work every day feels amazing.

NCC: What else are you excited about in your life?
MM: I get really excited about traveling mostly to nonwestern cultures because they challenge my perspective and force me to engage in my surroundings in new ways. Being immersed in different sights, smells, tastes, sounds, colors and patterns make me feel energized. All of those experiences ideally manifest themselves in my daily studio practice.

NCC: What art do you look at for eye candy?
MM: Here’s an abbreviated list of what I look at that may be a tad unconventional and is in no particular order:

  • The photography of Joel-Peter Witkin and Diane Arbus
  • Scientific images of insects
  • Fabrics from all over the world
  • Wallpaper designs
  • Middle eastern architecture
  • Turkish art and pottery
  • Historic pottery from all over the world
  • Byzantine and Medieval Christian art
  • Patterns of all kinds
  • The designs of William Morris
  • Tattoo designs
  • Historic and contemporary Asian pottery
  • Italian Majolica
  • Lucie Rie and Hans Coper
  • As well as a whole host of contemporary ceramic artists that challenge design, surface, and function within their work.