12 Questions: Melissa Mytty
1.Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Michigan. I went to undergrad at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and graduate school at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills MI. Upon graduating from Cranbrook, I moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to become a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio where I stayed 2007-2012. I now live and work in Collegeville PA where I live with my husband Marty and 2.5 year old daughter Willow and we have another baby on the way arriving late January 2019!
2. What first inspired you to begin working with ceramics?
I was lucky enough to take clay classes from a young age outside of school. My middle school offered some clay in art class which is where I threw on the Potter's Wheel for the first time. Then in High School I took all the Ceramics classes offered and even did an independent study in ceramics. I went to college initially for Criminal Justice but that major was short lived and I quickly transfered to CCS for their Ceramics program which was a great fit for me. I studied with Tom Phardel, Christian Tedeschi and Paul Kotula and all three of those men were very influential to me and my artwork. It was an incredibly inspiring studio in which to make work and cemented my belief that this was the field for me.
3.What is your studio like? Could you share an image?
My studio is conveniently located in my backyard in our garage. Our garage is split into three sections, I have a 600 square feet studio and my husband is really into organic gardening and he works in the other section and then we have another section for typical garage equipment. I work in my studio every day and every chance I get so it really helps to have it so close to home. I like to keep my studio pretty tidy because it helps me think clearly.
4.What are some of your rituals in the studio to get the momentum going?
I really never find myself at a loss for momentum. I will often reference work from previous firings if I am stuck on a certain glaze combination or something but I always have something in the works. I usually make wet work for a week or so and then spend three or four weeks glazing it. The glazing part of my process is really time consuming but surfacing the pots has really become my passion. I obsess over the glaze and color combinations and love trying new color and pattern options.
5. How do you overcome ‘failure’?
I grew up training pretty intensely as a fast pitch softball pitcher and playing competitive travel ball. Failure in sports is inevitable and so from an early age I learned to keep moving after loss. Using the failure as motivation to train harder comes naturally to me. I am a big fan of hard work, there is no replacement for focused time honing these specialized skills. Some days you lose the game, others you throw a no hitter but every day you have to show up ready to go and give it 100%, that is the best way to learn and grow. It's good to reflect on results weather they're successful or not so you can improve in the next game or in the next firing cycle. It's actually pretty similar.
6. What is the most inspiring place you have been to?
I would have to say that MOMA in NYC always makes me so excited I can hardly wait to get back into my studio. Their collection is pretty incredible. I love their functional design pieces and also their memorable painting collection. It's just so exciting to me to see all that great work in one place.
7. Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
I enjoy running marathons which has proven difficult while being a full time stay at home mom and working full time in my studio. I am pretty slow so logging long training miles takes a lot of time which is hard to find these days. I am hoping to have more time to squeeze that in sometime in the future but my I do yoga several times a week which keeps my body healthy.
8. Do you collect anything?
I love to buy artwork especially Ceramics. I'm really into work that is unlike what I would make in style although I am completely obsessed with collecting vessels.
9. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?
"Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images" by Barbara Maria Stafford was really influential and has some great concepts. I should probably pick that up again and look through it as it has been a while. Also, "Air Guitar" by David Hickey was a really good read for me as I was entering Graduate school. I think he has some really interesting perspective to share.
10. What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist?
When my daughter was born 2.5 years ago, I decided to switch from making sculptural work to making almost exclusively functional ware. The move was motivated not only by my interest in making dinnerware and more accessable objects, but also to supliment my income since when she was born I quit working all my jobs outside of my own studio. I am so happy about my decision and feel more motivated than ever to get in my studio time. I honestly can't believe it took me so long to make that shift.
11. Who/What are influences for your work?
I love Mark Rothko's paintings. I think his work is brilliant and every time I encounter one of his works I am in awe. I wish my work was as emotively captivating!
12. What are you working on right now?
I am currently gearing up for a big push for the holiday season. I am really into pinching and coiling the pots right now. I can't even make myself do anything besides a pinch pot right now. I am working on switching up my glaze designs and patterns too. After the holidays I hope to do some more flat tile "painting" work. I have this image of a whole wall installation of my tile paintings stuck in my head that I hope to bring to fruition soon.