I grew up knowing I was an artist.

It was something I was always sure of. Some say I’m lucky, that I already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I say, sure, but I was never given the choice.

Portrait of Melissa
Born in Buffalo, New York, I grew up in a suburb just south of the city. I had a normal childhood, with normal parents, and went to a normal school. There goes the myth of the tortured artist with the horrible childhood right out the window.

There are two directions my work pulls me in and I like to think I calmly co-exist in the middle somewhere. On one hand there is my love of custom design, of working with a client, of making someone’s dream into a reality. On the other hand there is my own dream that also wants a reality. Creating one of a kind jewelry for someone is so satisfying for me. There are rules to follow, specifics to adhere to, and deadlines to meet. This work is an exercise in technique and execution. And it’s fun. Creating one of a kind jewelry that is personal to me is also satisfying in that I get to break a few rules here and there. I have the best of both worlds.

I started at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall of 1992 as a graphic design major. I drifted through the year not really enjoying what I was doing. I made some friends. I had a good time. One of these friends, Liza Nechamkin (a best friend to this day), introduced me to the Metals Department located in the School for American Crafts. After 5 minutes, I knew I wanted in. The professor, Leonard Urso, became a mentor over the next 4 years while I was in school and continued through 2 years of grad school. I will be forever grateful for the time I spent learning the trade from him, for his humorous observations on life, and his tenacity toward the idea of craft and art.

My first opportunity to learn custom design in the jewelry industry came from a chance job offer from Mann’s Jewelers in Rochester, New York. It was 1994. I was still a newbie at making jewelry, but I somehow landed a commission(I still do not know how that happened) to create an engagement ring. I set to work, did the best I could, and needed a little help. So, I sought out Mann’s Jewelers for that extra help. I walked in a needy student and walked out with a job as a bench jeweler. It began a relationship between Mann’s and RIT that continues to this day. Over the next 8 years, Mann’s Jewelers became my family and my home away from home. Their patience and willingness to teach have remained a very important part of my life and career. Searching through the gallery on my homepage, you will find examples of the custom designs I created while under their tutelage. A very big shout out to Charlotte Mann, Ray Rogers, Jodie Licherdell, Kathy Krupp, and John McNulty for their guidance and friendship. All designs are owned by Mann’s Jewelers and were created for specific clients.

Also located in the gallery is a category titled ‘Reflection’. This collection of work represents a thesis I started in graduate school and continue to explore. I am curious about the idea of the self portrait and what it can reveal about its maker. Each metal panel is based on a drawing -a self-portrait. The image is flipped or slightly modified to create a conversation between the drawing and the metal interpretation. Techniques include chasing and repousse on the metal panels with acrylic paint added for color. I’d like to thank my advisors Leonard Urso, Charlotte Mann, Alan Singer, and DeAnna Skedel for helping me navigate through the art speak, the heart break, and triumph of grad school.

So, now I’m working on my own. A bit of trepidation and a bigger bit of thrill await me each day.

Thanks for reading.