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Melissa Salazar is a jewelry designer and metalsmith currently living in San Clemente and working in Dana Point. She started her artistic career as a printmaker, but transitioned to metalsmithing and jewelry making four years ago.

Q: How did you get into jewelry making?

A: I’ve always been involved in the arts in some way or another. I went to UC Santa Cruz for fine art, and my focus was printmaking. After that, I had internships and worked out in Washington, D.C. and New York for printmaking, papermaking and bookmaking. After that, I started with jewelry in 2015. There’s this awesome facility in Irvine called the Irvine Fine Arts Center, and they have a huge range of classes as well as open studios. So I started by taking a couple metalsmith fabrication classes, and from there I just started using the open studio hours and really was able to refine my craft independently.

Q: What is your creative process like?

A: I have a pretty big collection of rocks that I purchase from different lapidaries. A lapidary is a person who cuts and polishes rocks. There are times when I draw out a sketch of something beforehand, but typically that’s not how I work. I sit with it and start to visualize in my brain what I want to do with the stone itself, and how I want to display it to really do it justice.

Q: What is your favorite part about the work in general?

A: I love the physicality of it. It’s why I’ve preferred all of the art processes I’ve done, whether it’s print, paper, bookbinding or now metalsmithing. They are all very tactile. You’re hammering, sawing, filing, sanding or wielding a torch. There’s so much physical motion within the entire process, it’s like a dance. You can put it on, and know it’s something that was crafted lovingly, intentionally, by hand. That’s really special to me.

Q: What inspires you while creating pieces?

A: The raw materials I use—silver, copper, any of the gemstones or rocks—they all come straight from the ground beneath us, which is pretty miraculous, in my opinion. I guess what inspires me is the beauty of the earth itself, and how it’s able to produce these materials. I feel like a lot of my work is very textural. This makes my work very reminiscent of landscapes and goes back to being inspired by the earth itself.

You can inquire about Melissa’s work via her website or her Instagram, @_melissa_salazar_.


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