Jeff Green | Aug 20, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - August 20, 2009 Resident potter breathes new life into MERA programBy Julie Druker
MERA’s new resident potter Melissa Jantunen
When Melissa Jantunen was close to graduating form the ceramics program at the Sheridan College School of Craft and Design in Oakville, Ontario back in February, she came across an ad for a resident potter at the MERA Schoolhouse located in McDonalds Corners.
She visited MERA (McDonalds Corners-Elphin Recreation & Arts) soon after and days later signed on as MERA’s new resident potter.
Melissa explained, “It’s a pretty nice set up for someone just starting out because I have everything that I need: wheels, kilns, glaze ingredients. The only thing I have to buy is my clay.”
Prior to studying at Sheridan, Melissa studied fine art in Red Deer College in Alberta.
Currently at MERA she is producing a line of wheel-thrown, functional red earthenware: mugs, bowls, cups, plates, platters, jars, baskets and flower bricks.
She covers the surfaces of her pieces with a creamy white slip and commercial underglazes, and using scraffitto tools, carves drawings into them. Melissa explained her approach to surface decoration: “I like colorful things and I’m using plant imagery and I think a lot about patterns and breaking up the surface.” Carrots, insects along with other flora and fauna appear to be a favorite subject.
Since arriving at MERA Melissa has taken up residence with the Furlong-Brownlees at their organic farm called Elphin Gold. She is working two days a week there in exchange for room and board and is finding the experience both interesting and inspiring. “I’m doing all sorts of wonderful farming things like gardening and driving the tractor.” Her farm experience is also directly affecting her ceramic work. Pat Furlong-Brownlee suggested that Melissa make a maple syrup pitcher, which she has since done with great success. “I decorate them with a maple leaf, using a sprig that I made from a tiny maple leaf that I picked when I first moved here in the spring.”
Melissa also has been pursuing other ideas that have been inspired by her new surroundings. “I want to do decorative tiles with images of the farm life on them, which will be a first for me.” She showed me a new tile that she is working on, with a low relief image of a rooster. “I really enjoy painting so I thought tiles would be good place to start. I plan to go out on the farm with my sketchbook and sit amongst the roosters and goats.”
As part of her residency, Melissa is offering introductory pottery classes at MERA, which is something she is enjoying. She also works as MERA’s ceramics technician and is available to MERA pottery members on Wednesdays during her open studio day.
Melissa's long-term goals are to keep on producing her work and to find local venues through which to sell it.
Ankaret Dean, artistic director at MERA, was the impetus behind both the weaving and pottery studios that were set up at the schoolhouse in 2001. She is overjoyed to have a young and spirited potter in residence.
According to Dean the MERA pottery studio has experienced a number of ups and downs over its history and fell into a rut for a while. One potter was let go after one year and there has not been someone to take over the position for a number of years.
In the winter of 2008 Ankaret suggested looking for a new graduate and it seems as though her long-time hopes of creating a lively and vibrant pottery studio at MERA are finally being realized.
Melissa's classes begin at the end of September and run in separate series of eight classes. The cost is $175 for MERA members and $190 for non members. For more information call Melissa after September 1 at MERA at 613-278-0388. ■
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