Monday, March 1, 2010

Artist Spotlight part 1: Melanie Testa

I would like to introduce you to an artist whose work I greatly admire. 

Still Life

I have had the pleasure of spending time with Melanie Testa on two separate occasions; as we taught at the International Quilt Festival in Houston last year, and when we filmed our Quilting Arts DVD Workshops. She is simply delightful as a person and I find her artwork to be beautiful, layered with meaning and texture, and intriguing. She is one who thinks and cares deeply both about her art, about other people, and about the world around her. Her laughter lights up a room and lifts your spirit. Her artwork draws you in and takes you on a journey. 

I hope you will enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

Lyric: What is your story, how did you become an artist?


Melanie: I have wanted to be an artist since I was a child. I remember watching TV and being riveted when I saw imagery of Andy Warhol walking the streets of New York. My mom used to sew her own clothing and I remember watching her pin a wool plaid skirt pattern out and knew the side seams would not match if she were to proceed, so I stopped her. Then a friend of hers asked if I would like to make a vest, it was a cute little vest and it had hand sewn ribbons bordering the inside front edge. It won a blue ribbon at the fair. I also won a blue ribbon for my Sugar Collection, but that is another story.

So when I was 19, I took a traditional quilt making course at the local Handcraft Center. I fell head over heels for fabric, really I fell in love with conversational prints and vowed to go to art school to become a Textile Designer. It took about 8 years for me to settle down and focus enough to make that a reality. I was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology as a 27 year old adult student. I was married and lived two hours outside the city, but we worked together and made it work. My husband has always been quite supportive of me and my creative efforts.
Once I was out of college and had some creative tools under my belt, I took some workshops by well known surface design artists like Jane Dunnewold and Ann Johnston. Making what I had learned into an expression all my own is, of course the adventure of a lifetime.

L:  Was it something you wanted to do from a young age or did you take a more circuitous path? Do you have any training in basic design?

M: I was able to afford two years of schooling at F.I.T and do have an associates degree in Textile/Surface Design. The education I got from F.I.T was more of a technical schooling. I was taught to put things in repeat, to paint flower and to weave. My real education came as a result of being a Vintage Poster Restoration Artist. I restore posters by Talouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, and interestingly enough, Andy Warhol. I took this as an opportunity to evaluate drawing and painting styles and I learned to mix paint to exact specification. 

Still Life In Time

L:  Do you consciously think about the elements of art as you create?

M:  No, I do not. I work intuitively. I think the basic tenets of art making are well and deeply ingrained at this point that I am not really aware of what I am doing at all. I can slow myself down to describe it when asked.

L:  What are your fears as an artist and how do you face/overcome/talk yourself out of them?

M:  My fears. 
That my art isn't good enough. Isn't this everyone's fear? And I don't think this is a bad thing. If my art isn't good enough, if I didn't hit the 'right' note, then I still have room to grow, to dig deeply into what I am trying to get at. It is sort of zen, when you think of it this way, as though the very thing you strive to do sits, as if a seed, within what you are doing right now. Being an artist is really about fostering that seed, prompting new growth.


Next week I'll introduce you to the lovely book that Melanie has written. It has been an inspiration to me over the past several months. And here is something special. During the month of March Melanie and I will collaborate on a small work of art - a textile postcard. At the end of the moth it will be given away to a lucky reader, chosen from the comments on each of the four posts that feature Melanie and her work. You may post each week  and have an even better chance of winning this postcard. Perhaps next week I'll give you a little peek at what we are starting.


28 comments:

Ruth said...

Melanie's work is wonderful - can't wait to see and hear more about it.

rdn said...

I've been following Melanie's blog for a while. I love her work and wish I could imitate it. I always feel like she's a "real" artist, while I'm only a dabbler. I also have come to like who she is as a person.

Jackie said...

I have been following both yours and Melanie's blog for some time , and am dying to meet both of you.

Keep up the great blog postings=)

Stephanie Forsyth said...

I love to see artist collaborating with one another, especially in the fiber/textile genre, where all too often we're too competitive and protective of our work and processes to work with one another! Kudos!s

Lora Martin said...

Great interview! Looking forward to seeing the rest.

colorific said...

Wow. A piece of art by the two of you. That will be spectacular. And lots of fun ... even for us viewers. Can't wait to see it!

Lisa said...

Great interview. I love Mells art and her book. What a fun project for the two of you!

Jeannie said...

This is so fun! My dream is to take classes from both of you, but for now your books are my inspiration. Thanks for the interesting interview!

Carol C said...

I've been a fan of Melanie's and yours since I've found Quilting Arts Magazine. Can't wait to see what the two of you come up with.

Carol C said...

I've been a fan of Melanie's and yours since I've found Quilting Arts Magazine. Can't wait to see what the two of you come up with.

Susan Brubaker Knapp said...

I have also admired Melanie's work for years, and had the chance to meet her at Open Studios last fall, and she is a warm and sweet person. I enjoyed learning more about her and her process from your interview. Thanks, Lyric!

tesuque said...

I have Melanie's book, and love her admonition that "it is not the supplies you collect, but what you make of them." That has saved me money and spurred experimentation.

Jane LaFazio said...

great! Melly and her work are the best!!

lyric said...

rdn - I just can't resist giving "the lecture" when someone says something like "she's a real artist".

Life is too short. You can never compare yourself to another persons success without knowing what they have gone through, how hard they have worked to get to where they are.

Do not sell yourself short. Words are important and meaningful. Perhaps what you really mean is that you admire her work and her success and that at some point in time you might be able to grow to that point as well. Give yourself credit for what you ARE accomplishing! Every little bit is a step of growth and courage and means something if you take the time to learn from it.

(ok, ok. I'll get off the soapbox now. Couldn't resist(

Cindy said...

Thanks for the interview. I am drawn to both yours and Melly's art and have both books. Now to get over my "fear" and try your techniques!

Madalene said...

You've got me hooked for the month! Great interview.

Bee said...

I love these interviews and getting to know our favorite artists a little better! What a great project! Can't wait to see what you create together!

Diana Trout {Nan.DT@verizon.net} said...

Thanks for this Lyric. I loved your questions and hearing Melly's answers. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on her wonderful book!

Alma said...

Hi Lyric,

This is great.
I love reading other artists stories and creative process.
Melanie's work is brilliant.

Alma

"Rhojo" Baldwin said...

Thanks for this "close up" of Melanie. I enjoyed your questions and look forward to seeing your collaberation on the ATC

Shirley said...

Loved the interview and now am thrilled to count Melly as a friend and member of our Journal Study Group.

Linda Robertus said...

I have your books and Melly's, I follow your blog and Melly's and i think it's great that you two are putting each other in the spotlight!

Laura Lea said...

I think I really like this part the best, "If my art isn't good enough, if I didn't hit the 'right' note, then I still have room to grow, to dig deeply into what I am trying to get at. It is sort of zen, when you think of it this way, as though the very thing you strive to do sits, as if a seed, within what you are doing right now. Being an artist is really about fostering that seed, prompting new growth." This quote goes along with your book Lyric where you critique your own work. I think you see the seeds of what you've done as a way to foster new growth too and work to improve and refine yourself. I'm intrigued by Melany's use of numbers in her work. They don't just appear randomly added, they integrate well into her pieces. I'm enjoying rereading these posts! I thought I'd already commented but I guess not. Sometimes I have so much to think about I can't possibly find the words. The chords struck make me reach for my own work and I don't post a response. I am eagery following your collaboration.

janice said...

Thank you for a lovely interview and introducing me to Melanie.

Carole said...

This has been wonderful... like a visit with you both.
Thank you

Shirley Burns said...

I love to see the collaboration between artists - keep up the wonderful inspiration!

karinlisadesigns said...

I loved reading this.Looking forward to Sat. Class at TQG in VA Bch

karinlisadesigns said...
This comment has been removed by the author.