Meet the Maker - Melanie Pike

Monday, July 21, 2014
We are over the moon to welcome back to Paper Scissors Stone the talented Melanie Pike.  Melanie makes gorgeous silver jewellery.  We caught up with her last year to find out more about her creative process and her inspirations...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work
My name is Melanie Pike and I design and make jewellery in my studio workshop in Bristol. I use silver, copper, semi precious stones and a whole range of found and foraged objects and materials, like pottery shards and sea glass, rusty metal, old maps, coins and driftwood. I do a lot of commissions - transforming people's cherished fragments (a grandmother's wedding ring, an orphan earring, a few treasured pearls from a broken string) into highly personal pieces of jewellery. I love collaborating with the client, co-designing a ring, necklace, brooch or pair of earrings that is exactly what they want.
Apart from creating things what else do you do?
When I'm not making I dance (all sorts, and my latest passion is flamenco), I tend my allotment, I take long walks with my camera and I cook, passionately. I also do all sorts of arty stuff, like messing about making stuff in the woods or on the beach.

When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I've always been a maker. As a child it was puppets, cards, containers, model villages, model anything actually. Later, I was sidetracked for a couple of decades by the life of the mind (I read Modern Languages at Oxford). Fortunately common sense prevailed and I rediscovered the delight of working with my hands. It was a long period of illness that really galvanised my creativity - I was very disabled for about a decade (I have Crohn's disease) and my imagination just sort of woke up. Unable to travel outwardly I began to journey inwards and conjure things up in my imagination. I discovered that I could develop ideas and construct objects entirely in my mind so that their actual creation was uncomplicated.
What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline? Where does your inspiration come from?
The process of imagining beautiful things and then being able to make them real is so rewarding. Inspiration is everywhere - in the light playing on leaves or casting shadows on a pavement, in a combination of colours in nature or a shop window, in an architectural detail or view, or in the materials themselves and their relationship to each other.
Describe your studio or workspace
I work at home, which is just so civilised. It feels natural to me to blur the home/work/life boundaries. There are times when I feel like sawing, soldering and hammering, times when I want to clean and cook, times when I want to do the online tasks like the book-keeping and marketing and times when I want to nap. It's easier to accomplish things when I'm not struggling against myself. Illness, my own and others' close to me has made me place a lot of value on the quality of how I live. Change can happen without any warning and to be able to trust oneself is the best insurance.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman, who would it be?
I'd love to peek inside Tracy Emin's studio. She's a woman after my own heart - I love her uncompromising forthrightness and willingness to explore.
How would you describe your creative process?
I alternate between production work - making small numbers of popular pieces, like the 'Branches' range of earrings, pendants and brooches and one off pieces, which are either commissions or original designs. The following images illustrate the stages involved in producing the etched 'Branches' silver earrings. The first two show photos I have taken of local trees and branches, which I then convert to black and white images. In the next, I'm piercing out the oval earring shapes. Then I apply a resist and float the metal in an acid solution. The next image shows how the ovals look after they have come out of the acid and had a good clean. Then I solder on jump rings so they hang freely and give them some depth by curving the edges on a mushroom stake. A stint in the barrel polisher to burnish and harden them is followed by the application of a patina to bring out the etched image. After a final polish, I hang them on handmade ear wires and they are good to go.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Currently the handmade possession I most treasure is a set of plates made by Jen Hamilton at the Village Pottery in Clifton. I love to have beautiful items - textiles, clothing, tableware, in daily use, rather than tucked away or as purely decorative. I guess it's part of not postponing the good stuff.

What do you do if you are stuck in a creative rut?
If I feel stuck in rut I know I need to get my life energy moving. What never works for me is trying to think my way back into a flow. So I dance, sing, shout, dig my vegetable beds, visit an exhibition, see a friend, go walking, move furniture, anything to jump start my vitality and then the creativity is just a natural consequence of that. I begin to flow again.
Which is your favourite local independent shop or eatery in Bristol and why?
I have many local favourite independent shops and eateries. Because I'm a jeweller, Diana Porter's shop on Park St is a regular delight for me. I also love the Arnolfini bookshop and the amazing food stores around where I live - The Better Food Company and Wild Oats and all the funky independent arty shops like Paper Scissors Stone.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
Ooh, big question. In ten years' time I'd like my work to be more widely known. I have regular customers (I think of them privately as my 'patrons'!) who return to have more pieces made, and I'd like this to grow. I have a dream of hosting jewellery workshops in which makers from other parts of the world can share their skills - a cross cultural exchange of timeless, ancient art. There are such rich silversmithing traditions in Africa (the Touareg and Morroccans), Nepal, Egypt and the US. I can also see myself embarking on larger scale work at some point, using techniques related to jewellery to create sculpture. And I look forward to collaborating - I'm sure opportunities will cross my path to share and be mutually inspired by other makers and I am very open to that. Playing alone or with friends is fun.

Thank you Melanie, your studio space is awesome!  You can find Melanie's work in our Paper Scissors Stone shop.
Paper Scissors Stone
Quakers Friars
Cabot Circus
Mon - Sat:  10am - 6pm
Sun:  11am - 5pm

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