by Lorie Lewis Ham
We at KRL feel it is important to support the local arts and entertainment communities, this week we are interviewing Sanger wire artist Melanie Schow.
KRL: When did you first get involved with wire art, and what drew you to wanting to create art in this way?
Melanie: Sometime in the late 1980s I gave my friend the gift of a wire-wrapping class, and I went with her. She wrapped whatever it was she was wanting to wrap and was done. I was intrigued. I started taking classes, then more classes, and never looked back.
KRL: Do you do any other kind of art?
Melanie: At present, I knit, sew, and occasionally spin and felt. I also write some poetry and take photographs.
KRL: Have you always been interested in art?
Melanie: I have always made things with my hands. As a kid, I sewed clothing and collaged beach treasures, collected rocks, and stitched needlepoint and Bargello.
KRL: What sort of things do you create with wire?
Melanie: I make jewelry—anything from simple wire wrap pendants to statement necklaces. I make something I call Wire Embroidery that can be done flat on a screen or dimensionally on an armature. The result is small hanging or sculptural pieces.
KRL: Where are you from?
Melanie: I was born on the East Coast and started life there. My father was transferred to the Los Angeles office of his company and I grew up in Pasadena, California. I lived in the Pasadena area until the fall of 2012 when we relocated to Sanger.
KRL: Do you only sell your art online?
Melanie: I sell online and also in several local galleries. My website is www.bendwire.com. I blog about art and the creative process on my page, too.
KRL: Have you had exhibits? If yes, can you share a little about those? Anything coming up this summer?
Melanie: I have participated in a number of exhibits. I show regularly at Circle Gallery with Madera County Arts Council, at Chris Sorenson’s Gallery in Fresno, and my work is always at Kathleen Mattox’s Mixed Messages Art in Sanger. For the last two years I have had work in Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts in Madera, and I hope to be juried into the show again this year.
KRL: What makes your art unique?
Melanie: I use unusual combinations of materials, often juxtaposing precious with found or re-purposed objects. I collect the work of other artists, particularly lamp work art beads, and showcase them in my jewelry and sculpture designs. This enables me to have very good quality beads in many design styles to add greater variety to my wire designs. I’m fond of humor and include it in tongue-in-cheek titles or whimsical art pieces.
KRL: What do you love most about what you do?
Melanie: I love the materials and bringing them together. I have trays of beads and silver findings and many colors of wire. I spend lots of time considering and selecting just the right beads and accents to create something visually pleasing. I love that I can take a creative idea from a virtual thing and turn it into a physical creation.
KRL: How do you decide what to create?
Melanie: There are several ways. Sometimes the materials direct what I make. I’ll get inspired by a particular bead or color and find that it is insisting that I make it into something. Often the places I exhibit have themed shows, and I am playing with ideas to make art in support of the show theme. Once in a while, something I am playing around with kind of lights a creative fire and I am swept into something very exciting. This happened in the spring when I was making children’s tiaras for a Pink Princess Party. The more I played with the idea, the more I thought about tiaras I would like to have. It lead me to a series of art pieces called “If I Were Queen of My Life, I Would Have a Title and a Tiara For Everything.”
KRL: What is the hardest part of what you do?
Melanie: Engineering! The creative ideas are often easier than actually getting a piece of jewelry or a sculpture to take the shape and move the way you have in mind. Jewelry has to fit and balance nicely on the body; it cannot scratch or be uncomfortable. I like my work to look finished on the back too. Wire is a challenging material; once you bend it, you are committed. It is very difficult to change the shape of a bend. My experience helps me predict what engineering I will need to accomplish an idea, but there is almost always a surprise or two in executing a piece of art.
KRL: I noticed on your website that you do classes. Can you tell us about those?
Melanie: I learned to teach adults by becoming certified as a trainer for Starbucks. I created a number of classes that I taught for bead stores in Southern California. In addition, my classes have been offered at some of the bigger shows, Bead & Button, and Adorn Me! Since moving to Sanger, I have done a little teaching but I am more focused on making art. Some of my most popular classes were made into videos and are offered on the website, Creativebug.com.
KRL: What are your future hopes and goals with your art?
Melanie: I am always stretching to learn another technique or combine things in new ways. I would like to keep adding to the body of work I have developed and continue to show regularly. The more work you do, the better your work becomes.
KRL: Do you also have a day job? If so, is it hard to balance that and art?
Melanie: I am the administrator (chief cook and bottle-washer) for our farm. Since moving to an agricultural community, we have developed a lot of respect for farmers. They work hard and have to know how to do a lot of different things. Balance is challenging; creative, curious people never have enough hours in the day!
KRL: Anything else you would like to share?
Melanie: Over the [past] 18 months I have worked on a series of collaborative pieces with local artists Kathleen Mattox and Paul Parichan. It’s another way to stretch your skills and create accountability. You cannot decide you don’t want to do a piece in the collaboration; other people are counting on you. It challenges you to solve artistic dilemmas that you might otherwise walk away from.
You can find more art & other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.