The Amazing Melanie Testa

Melanie Testa, self-described author, textile designer, fiber artist and teacher is one of the most exciting women in todays mixed-media sphere. Her work manages to be both deeply evocative, personal and accessible.
Melanie graciously took the time to answer a few questions so all of us at Gauche Alchemy could learn both about her and from her.
Melanie in her own words:
I am married to a man I love, he supports all the crazy things I think up and has fun with me too. We laugh and play and act like kids together. We have no kids, excepting for the furry sort. Arrow is our cat’s name.
Show us a favorite project and tell us why you love it?
(Click on the pictures to be taken to Melanie’s Gallery)

This image was originally a journal page and it called me to make it into quilt art. I have loved drawing the pencil I draw an image with for a long time. It is iconic for me because I used to do it as a young’un, perhaps it was inspired by the first time I saw Escher’s work called, Drawing hands.
What are you working on now?
I have just begun a new project to highlight the Top 20 Common Birds in Decline. I have printed my first image and this bird is am Evening Grosbeak. I am in love with birds and will do almost anything to further their growth on this planet. It is my hope that the project will tour the country and raise awareness and money to help the birds along.
Who are your favorite artists?
Frida Kahlo and her raw and rabid emotions. Beside which with a quote like,
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly.”
John Copeland‘s BOOKS. His art is too city forward, but his journals? Yes.
Baptiste Ibar, I know him personally.
Helen Frankenthaller. I saw her work at the Yale Museum of art and it made me start thinking about using monoprint to create grounds in my own work. I am indebted.
What products can you not live without when making art? What adhesives do you use to add collage elements to fabric?
I can’t live without Plexiglas, Procion MX dyes and freezer paper when working with cloth. When I collage with cloth I use Mistifuse, when I work with paper in my journals I use matte medium, gesso and glue sticks to paste imagery in there.
Do you consider yourself a modern quilter, a mixed-media artist or something different entirely?
I am an artist. I think when we work in mixed mediums with a crafty edge it is best to be vague for fear of the art establishment making unfounded judgements, it is sad but true. Among knowledgeable types, I call myself an art quilter.
You do a lot of work with nudes, has the human form as a subject always inspired you? Are your pieces based on real people or more an idea? Please tell us more about that.
I love to draw, love it. My figural work is is derived from actual people. I love working with nudes. Because we are human and have an intimate relationship with the human form, I think it is the most challenging subject to work with. The average person can detect the slightest mistake in rendering without hesitation. So working with the human form means an artist either has to get it right, know how to abstract, or stay away entirely.  I would like to work more with the male nude form,
There is a dearth of beautiful male nudes out there; leave the macho, strong male image to those others. I want to create simply beautiful male nudes.
I’ve read that your process starts with journalling and collaging a mixed media piece on paper to solidify your idea and then you translate that into fabric dyeing and whole cloth quilt making. What do you do with the original paper collages?
My journals, for the most part are private, created for my own artistic inspiration and exploration. They mean more to me than any piece of art I have yet made. I don’t really work on loose sheets of paper. And I don’t always reach for these journals when I start a new piece, I use my journals to remain inspired, to continue to draw, to remain balanced as an artist.
If you are anything like me, you are probably chomping at the bit to see more of Melanie’s work and to explore the techniques she employs further. We have a really exciting surprise for our readers:
Melanie has generously provided a piece of her art to give to one of you. Want a peek?

All you need to do to win is leave a comment telling us what form(s) inspire you and/or what you like best about Melanie’s amazing art. You can get a second entry into the drawing by tweeting about this giveaway on Twitter and a third by mentioning this post on FaceBook. Please leave separate comments for each chance to win – it’ll make the counting so much easier 🙂
Nicole (Perky Nihilist)
You can read another interview Melanie gave to Quilting Arts Magazine Here.
Look at more of her incredible art:
Follow her blog:

9 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing Melanie Nicole. In terms of form I guess it would be shapes/abstract pieces(whether it me leftover paper or fabric). What I like about Melanies work…I think it would be the hand-stitching I see. I also like that she listens best while her hands are busy!

  2. Old photos and nature inspire me. I also love the work of Hirschfeld.


  3. Wowowowowow! I just loved what Melanie said about how she uses her journals in such an intimate way to inspire her actual pieces. That is inspiring!

    I’m inspired by textures: layering, hard, soft, rough and smooth.

    Thanks for the interview and what a prize to win!!!

  4. I Tweeted! 😀 (username: addglitter)

  5. I liked the interview. I don’t work with the human body but i love looking at the works of those who do. Quilting is definitely moving over into the art world which i love because it opens a whole new art form to those traditional quilters. Which is where i started. I am still finding my way.

  6. I have been following Melanie’s work for some time and it always takes my breath away. I especially like the work she does with birds. Her work appears simple, yet when I try to copy it (just for my own growth and development) I find that it is complex beyond my ability to reproduce. And I like who she is as a person too.

  7. I like spirals and the thing I like most about Melanie’s work is the buildup, layer by layer to produce a complex image. I always wonderered why my work looks dull, and I think it is because of the lack of depth to my qullts since they arereally only 1 layer. My goal is to try to learn more about the layering techniques.

  8. I am Melanie’s mom. So, having known her since birth I can say that she has always been creative. Since she was a little girl she has been able to write, draw, paint and sew. I am incredibly proud of her and continually impressed as she further develops her talents. She actually inspires me to write, which is more my forte.

  9. I understand Melanie’s reluctance to label her work – it’s so much easier for most people to assign a category to an artist’s work than to consider each piece on its merits. The thing I most admire about her art quilts is the art that informs them; artistic vision and sensitivity to form and line – they go beyond craft in that there is no simple formula anyone could use to produce such work.

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