Melanie Sherman is a ceramic artist, born in Germany and currently residing and working in Kansas City, Missouri. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute. Her background is in graphic design, where she developed an eye for pattern and decoration. In her ceramics she combines her love for ornamentation and her fascination with the history of ceramics, referencing 18th century European porcelain.
Melanie has travelled to Asia and Europe to explore ancient and contemporary porcelain production of the East and the instilled taste for prestigious white and translucent table wares of the West. She has been a resident at the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemét, Hungary where she studied with the renowned Latvian ceramic artist Ilona Romule and deepened her love for designing with plaster and detailed china-painting.
As a resident at The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China she developed her own designs with skilled local craftsman into a new body of work, exploring the relationship between the cultures, and how they continue to connect and influence each other through the ceramic arts.
Melanie has been a Summer resident at The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana and a Fall resident at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado. She is currently a Foundation Resident Artist at the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri.
Melanie has exhibited her work internationally, including Hungary, Canada and America. She was awarded the 2014 Regina Brown Undergraduate Fellowship from the National Council for Education of the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) and the 2014 Windgate Fellowship Award by The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design.
"I am a ceramic artist, working mainly with porcelain and focusing on lavish surface decoration. My work references exclusive and precious porcelain wares from 18th-century Europe as I seek to capture the qualities for which porcelain has been known since its discovery thousands of years ago in China: whiteness, translucency, and resonance. I am attracted to the enameled and lustered surfaces of the Baroque, Renaissance, and Rococo porcelain designs as well as elaborations on structural elements from these time periods. I explore surface ornamentations and embellished shapes to gain more knowledge for my own studio practice. I am interested in incorporating and referencing historic drawings, motives, and patterns into my work using traditional decorating methods, such as blue and white painting, china painting, flocking, gilding, gold luster, gold leaf, and gold powder applications. I am also fascinated by Kintsugi, the traditional mending technique from Japan, where broken pieces are put together with pine glue and gold powder; this process shows the history of the piece while telling the story through its golden cracks.
Studying the history of ceramics, I have been captivated by the relationship between East and West and how they continue to influence each other, especially through the ceramic arts. Although there might be considerable differences between the two civilizations, the cultural exchange between them is an important connector of history and has produced a long and rich exchange of ideas between artists and makers. Asian craft traditions have been handed down to the West, and the handmade aspect—even within the factory setting—is still an important concept that allows for the artist’s control of design and quality, which is essential within the craft of the West.
My photographs demonstrate how I am experimenting with groupings of different objects with my porcelain pieces. I combine contrasting materials, textures, and colors to investigate the visual context of a compilation of items depicting objects symbolic of excess, waste, and decay. They are reminiscent of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures. Inspirations for these photographs come from “Vanitas,” still-life paintings from the early 17th century to the Baroque, where mortality is captured permanently in an arrangement of objects, including special porcelains from the East. The porcelain vessels that I make represent these early imported wares from Asia, which were treasured in Europe at the time and eternalized in these paintings. In the photograph, they give an illusion of permanence but are a reminder of the inevitability of death—memento mori."