Interview with Resident Artist
Melissa Walter

Posted June 26, 2012 in Blog

This week, we interviewed Melissa Walter, an artist who combines metalsmithing and papermaking to create works that adorn the body and reach beyond the traditional realm of jewelry making and wearability.

Melissa’s current work investigates physical space, the distance or closeness between people, and emotional space, the intimate connection between people. Her work gives form to this invisible arena of interaction, communication and possible discomfort. When worn, her forms project off the body, causing a physical barrier and awkward interaction between the wearer and viewer.

Melissa is originally from Concord, North Carolina. She holds a BFA in Metal Design from East Carolina University and a MFA in Jewelry and Metals from the University of Georgia. Her work has been recently exhibited in Jewelry + Objects, in Midland, Michigan; Ohio Designer Craftsman: The Best of 2011, 20_3_20, an invitational, traveling ring exhibition; and Handcrafted: A Juried Exhibition of Ceramics. Fibers. Glass. Metal. Wood., in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Melissa will be leaving us at the end of August, so come by to check out her studio soon! To see more of her work, visit

Artist Melissa Walter speaking about her work with a visitor in her studio at HCCC.
Photo by Kim Coffman.

What led you from using silver and paper to new materials, such as Styrofoam?

I really enjoy working and combining different materials, especially when they are combined in unexpected ways or ways that transform the material into something new. I have had some ideas for larger wall pieces incorporating forms that are similar to forms I’ve used in jewelry. And to make those pieces, I began looking around my studio to see what materials I already had, and that happened to be some insulation foam and masonite, which are great materials to carve and construct, so I began working with those materials.

Has the scale in your work evolved?

It has. Throughout graduate school my work slowly increased in size. The change in size had to do with ideas I was working with, as well as the materials–working with paper enabled the pieces to be large and light weight. Currently, I am working on smaller jewelry pieces and larger wall pieces at the same time. Working small and large at the same time helps me to have a change of pace and keeps me focused in the studio.

Your work includes both wearable and non-wearable jewelry. Which do you prefer making?

There’s a little more freedom when you aren’t as concerned with wearability. But I also really enjoy wearing and having others wear my work. No preference–I enjoy both.

Why did you start making your own paper?

I began making paper when I took a papermaking class in graduate school. I really enjoyed the process as well as the results and wanted to find a way to incorporate the process and qualities of papermaking into my work.

Melissa Walter. Untitled 1. Masonite, acrylic paint, thread, cement, charcoal, beeswax.
Yellow: 4″ x 5.5″ x 4”. Gray: 2″ x 3.5″ x 2”. Photo by Melissa Walter.

Melissa Walter. Untitled 4. Masonite, acrylic paint, cement, charcoal, graphite.
11″ x 8″ x 6”. 2012. Photo by Melissa Walter.

Which do you prefer, Carolina BBQ or Texas BBQ?

My good friend and grad school colleague, Justin Klocke, and I started a BBQ Society during our time in Athens, GA, so I definitely feel this is an important topic. I am from Western NC, went to undergrad in Eastern NC, and grad school in Georgia. Therefore, I have tasted many types of BBQ–chopped pork, pulled pork, vinegar based, etc. Texas has been my first experience with mostly beef BBQ and with brisket. Currently, I prefer Carolina BBQ but will continue to taste BBQ in all forms.

Can you give your thoughts on the arts community in Houston?

There are so many great museums. Also, from what I have experienced, it is very active and growing; there seems to be a lot happening and great potential for more.

What is your favorite thing about your residency at HCCC?

My studio!! The enrichment days (visits to museums, behind-the-scenes tours, etc.) have been great, too.

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Funny, hard-working, caring, patient, hopeful