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Life & Work with Melanie Cech

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Cech.

Hi Melanie, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born in the Chicago area, but quickly learned that the cold was not for me, so at age 15, my family and I moved to Seminole, Florida. After high school, I met some friends that introduced me to torchwork and I quickly discovered that I was intrigued. At 19, excited for an adventure, we decided to move to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands and open a small gift shop featuring handmade glass. I learned quickly what it took to be an entrepreneur while I started to experiment with the beginning techniques at the torch. After 4 years, I returned to Florida while dealing with many hardships and found that by immersing myself in my art it helped in every aspect of my life — in a sense I was creating my own art therapy without knowing it! I felt addicted to the feeling of melting and creating glass. There was a sort of satisfaction and control that came along with the working through the process and in the joy people expressed when they came across a beautiful little treasure that I made.

I also worked as the on-site flame worker in front of a gift shop on the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida for a few years where I built a following and expanded my skills. Between the years of 2000 – 2015, while raising my two boys, I began offering my unique sculpture and jewelry to many galleries, gift shops, and museums, and exhibited in over 60 art shows throughout Florida, During this time I began teaching through apprenticeships and workshops before moving back to St. Petersburg to be a part of the growing arts community. I continue to work on developing my skills and have recently began to film my virtual workshops that will be available to the public soon.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No, it definitely has not been a smooth road. I was born into a fairly strict, white collar family and did not grow up in a home influenced by entrepreneurs or artists. But I was raised with a great work ethic, and by the time I was 18 I had already worked many jobs including hostess, waitress, pizza delivery driver, and lifeguard. My first relationship right out of high school introduced me to flameworking, but it was very turbulent and abusive. The four years in the islands were a struggle, and I eventually fled with my young son. As a single mom coming back to Florida I could’ve started a new career path at this point, but I was strangely determined to keep practicing and to find out how good I could become. My love and passion for torch work helped me cope with the obstacles of life and leaving everything behind. It gave me a voice and way to express myself in a visual way, without words, as I progressively gained confidence in myself and my art. I worked tirelessly for hours and hours most days, and for the next 25 years I began creating a unique style in glass sculpture. Building a business is always hard, but making the entire product line by hand and keeping up with the demand is even harder and has always been the biggest obstacle. On a side note, working in 105 degree temperatures in the summer while keeping my energy level up is always challenging!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a self -taught, flamework glass sculpture artist, specializing in borosilicate glass. I am known for my detailed, sea life sculptures and jewelry, designed with rich, warm colors and trimmed with 22kt gold. My love for all things beach, sea, and sand is reflected in my work. I created my signature design, the Nautius, in 2014. The chambers of the Nautilus shell are symbolic of growth, evolution, expansion and renewal — the stages each person passes through in life. The spiral itself is a symbol of creation, movement, and fluidity and in my logo design as well. I particularly love making these! I am proud of the fact that at an early age I had the insight to recognize the beauty in flameworking and how it would help me cope with a lot of life struggles through my 20’s and 30’s. The time I spent behind the torch gave me time to focus on creating something of beauty that I could put into the world and something that others desired, which can be powerful, even on a small scale! I love that I never gave up and was able to build a successful personal brand and business that hopefully inspires other young people to follow their passion.

As far as my artwork, I think my simplistic details, along with the gold edging, sets me apart from other torch workers. Being self-taught helped in the uniqueness. Personally, I think my energy, background, and perspective makes me a little different than others. In some respects, I’m just a woman who has worked hard to raise sons and build something they are proud of, like everyone else, but maybe I did it just a little differently!

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
This past year came at a time in my life when there were already big changes happening! I recently moved in with my now fiancé. we were building my new studio and building a new life together. I was already going to take a step back from doing as many art shows as I did in years past and would be focusing more on selling my work online and teaching once again. However, when everything shut down, including all art shows, art facilities, galleries and museums, I discovered a silver lining! It was a perfect time to move my classes online, and I started filming my courses in “Beginning Techniques in Flamework Glass Sculpture” that will be available in ten sessions and will be offered virtually by the end of 2021. It will be a complete guide with detailed notes and video “step by step” instructions. I’m in the middle of editing and voice over work right now and I still have a good amount of work to complete before they are ready to be released. I already know that things happen for a reason, but that was definitely one of the more interesting twists and revelations to the Covid crisis for me!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Zoe Perez and Melanie Cech

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