Melissa Alves creates functional and ornamental ceramic art inspired by the beauty of indigenous art from around the world. Her pieces evoke world travel through the use of warm earth tones in contrast with bright accent colors. Think Oaxacan textiles, Nigerian beaded thrones, indigenous American stoneware.
What is your background?
I grew up in New Jersey and spent six years living in Manhattan and Brooklyn after college. I ended up working in jewelry production making really small 14-karat pieces. I learned so much from that experience with attention to detail and everything, but the medium was hard on my body, my joints and eyes. I met my partner who is from Denver, and we were both ready to leave New York, so we decided to move back here.
How did clay become your primary medium?
I had taken a clay class on a whim in college and created one of my favorite pieces there that is still special to me. Then, when I lived in Brooklyn, I bought a set of handmade plates and bowls by ceramicist Robert Blue. They were thoughtfully decorated, and the weight felt so good in my hands. It really elevated the eating experience, and that’s when I realized I had an appreciation for the craft.
I feel so centered and grounded in Colorado. After moving, I rediscovered my love for clay and felt ready to open myself up to working with it again. It is really therapeutic and requires so much patience — it can be meditative.
Tell me a little about the global influences evident in your work.
My dad is Italian, but I am also half Colombian and grew up spending my summers there. We often took trips to visit the indigenous territories, observing their beautiful handwoven bags and textiles. I was always drawn to anything with warm earth tones of red and brown with bright pops of color, and I still love this color scheme across any culture, whether it is Colombian, American Indian, African or Oaxacan. You can really see that influence in the pieces I’ve been making more recently.
How would you describe your style?
I try to focus on the cultural significance of certain objects or adornments that I am drawn to and translate that into pieces that can be utilized by us in modern times. That color scheme I mentioned is a common thread, but I think my style is evolving. I’m moving away from the functional pieces like plates and cups and toward ornamental, decorative pieces instead. I’d like to consider incorporating my jewelry background into my clay work at some point as well.
Where can I find your work?
My art is available for sale at Sacred Thistle in Denver. I also have a booth at several art markets and shows around the metro area throughout the year, and there is a store on my website at MelissaAlvesStudio.com. Oh, and I post my most current pieces and updated photos on Instagram; my handle is @melissaalvesstudio.
“I was always drawn to anything with warm earth tones of red and brown with bright pops of color, and I still love this color scheme across any culture, whether it is Colombian, American Indian, African or Oaxacan.”