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An Interview with Alex Meltzer, Founder of Meltz Studio

Alex Meltzer is the founder of Meltz Studio, a ceramic studio based in Newburgh in the Hudson Valley of New York, known for creating pieces intended to serve as both memento and object to be enjoyed every day. Working with stoneware, you will find variations of both handbuilt and wheel-thrown techniques used throughout her practice.

In Spring we had the opportunity to collaborate with Alex on a one of a kind collection of vessels for Phosphene. Read on for our conversation with Alex to learn about her background as a creator, what inspires her (hint: forms and techniques of traditional Mexican, Indigenous American and Egyptian pottery), and her hopes and dreams for the future.

above: Alex Meltzer in her home with a collection of her ceramic work.

 

Tell us about yourself and your creative background / background as an artist.

I have always been very crafty and love to make things and do stuff with my hands. I decided to take a ceramics class on a whim in 2017 because I work in a fairly corporate environment and was really craving a creative outlet. It definitely did not click right away, but I appreciated the challenge that the wheel gave me and the humbling nature of clay. I picked it back up again in 2018 when I couldn't remember why I stopped in the first place. Once I got through the frustrations of being a beginner I was hooked. I have a passion for interior design and feel like clay was just waiting for me to find it. Creating functional art for peoples homes is like wow, this is what I was supposed to be doing all along. My partner Elliot really helped push me to take ceramics from a hobby to a business by encouraging me to build an online presence and also by believing in me and my work. Meltz is still a side hustle, supported by my full time job at an architecture media company with dreams of it being my full time gig at some point in the future.

Last year when the pandemic hit and everything shut down in New York, I was no longer able to access my studio. I bought a box of clay, pulled out a tiny little table in my parents basement and without a wheel, leaned into handbuilding, a technique which I had scratched the surface of but hadn’t completely embraced. The pieces I created in quarantine have become pillars in my work. I am really grateful for that time outside of the studio which pushed me to explore slower and more playful ways of making and refine new styles that I now incorporate in the studio. 


What do you enjoy most about creating ceramics?

I love that creating gets me completely offline. I have an aversion to screens and doing something that is very physically demanding and quite messy means that I get guilt free hours away from my phone and computer. I absolutely love that I can get really dirty and in the end, create something that someone can use and enjoy everyday!

 

What is the most difficult thing about being a creator, and in contrast the most beautiful?

 

The most difficult thing about being a creator for me is allowing myself the time and space to create for the sake of creating and not necessarily for the sake of capitalism. It is really hard for me to find a balance of making work that typically sells well versus taking the time to explore new shapes, styles and techniques that I have been dreaming up. Especially when my time in the studio is limited.

There are so many beautiful things about being a creator! For me, making ceramics is an outlet that has given me a priceless piece of mind, especially throughout the pandemic. To be able to get out of my apartment and zone out the rest of the world for a few hours has been such a blessing. The other thing about being a creator that really lights me up is that the things I make become people’s special mementos. The cool thing about ceramics is that the work I make isn’t just decorative but that it is functional and can actually be loved and used and enjoyed by my customers. I absolutely love that. 


How would you describe your creative process?

For someone who thrives off of tight planning, I take a very loose approach when it comes to creating my pieces, letting the clay lead the way. Sometimes I will have a specific shape in mind but when I get to the wheel, something totally different happens and then I roll with that and let it evolve. Most of my handles and arms and ears on my vessels are iterations of what just feels right for that particular form. I usually stick with the formula for my style of clean lines and somewhat traditional forms, which allows me to play around but also keep a uniformity to my work without being too rigid.

 

 

 

How would you describe your creative style/aesthetic?

I have a pretty minimal aesthetic, usually keeping within with a neutral pallet while highlighting the raw material of the clay. My interior design aesthetic leans modern bohemian and I tend to make pieces that I think would work in my own space. Lots of natural tones and textures, highlighted with unique and usually thrifted art and knic knacks. I also love plants and always try to keep fresh flowers in my home! If I had to create a tagline for my style, I would probably call it “New Yorker in Nature”

 

What are your sources of inspiration?

I find so much inspiration from traveling. Wherever I go, the first thing I do is find the artisan markets and pretty much build my trips around combing through local crafts and food. Traveling is also the time when I am able to get a big dose of nature which inspires me by clearing my mind- I am truly my happiest when outdoors and exploring. Moving from Brooklyn, Upstate and being surrounded by mountains and trees and the Hudson River has really helped to ground me in that way.  I draw an abundance of inspiration from forms and techniques of traditional Mexican, Indigenous American and Egyptian pottery. Old pots always get my wheels turning. 


If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I have been dreaming of going to France for years and years. Everything about it is alluring to me. The museums and architecture in Paris, the fashion, the antiquing, the serene mediterranean coast. France to me is the ultimate luxury and I want to be sure I can milk every moment out of it.

 

Where are you based? What do you love about your community?

And if we were to visit - what are your top recommendations for food, coffee, things to do, etc?

I am currently based in Newburgh, NY, about an hour and a half north of New York City in the Hudson Valley. While fairly new to the community, I love that Newburgh feels like a small town. Everybody knows everybody and is happy to chat and connect and help their neighbor. My favorite restaurant is Mama Roux- we take everyone who comes to visit here. They have amazing fried chicken and a really charming outdoor dining set up. My favorite coffee is across the river in Beacon at Big Mouth- it feels like a Brooklyn coffee shop in the best way and I always go there when I’m feeling a little homesick. Storm King Art Center is one of my favorite places on the planet- an outdoor museum with large scale sculptures in a breathtaking landscape. I live across the street from beautiful Downing Park and pick up their urban garden’s weekly produce and flowers in the summer which is such a treat. We are sandwiched between the Newburgh Vintage Emporium and the Newburgh Vintage Warehouse, fabulous antique markets which never disappoint. I really could go on and on. 

 

How do you enjoy a day off? How do you ‘slow down’ and bring presence and mindfulness into your life?

If you haven’t caught on yet, I absolutely love being outside. On my days off, I love taking nature walks, baking, hosting friends and if the weather permits, swimming. I love the water. I bring presence and mindfulness into my life by connecting with people I love. I am definitely a social creature and always feel the most myself when I am chatting, laughing and dancing with friends and family. 


What is your hope for the present?

My hope for the present is to be able to really slow down and be in the moment. I have a tendency to over plan and over commit which eases some type of control- centered anxiety but also takes away from just living in the present. I really want to soak in each moment and embrace spontaneity. 


What is your dream for the future?

My dream for the future is to live somewhere with a beautiful view, a porch and a garden with a studio that is full of light. Oh, that and a clean planet. 

 

Shop the Meltz Ceramics collection made exclusively for Phosphene Studio here.

Follow Alex and Meltz Studio on instagram here.

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