Filtered Expressions - Curious Questions Part 7 - Melanie Furtado

A post class snap of Melanie and her students.

Melanie's studio is located a short walk from Chinatown in an older brick building. The elevator is rickety and the hallways are lined with a spattering of trinkets expressing quirks of the folks that inhabit each individual apartment.
Hers is a true studio, white walls lined with shelves that hold her latest molds and creations along with the work of her diligent and delightful students. There is a shelf that stretches 3/4 of the way to the ceiling, separating the entry way/kitchen area from the workshop where she guides the hands and minds of many. The environment is cleanly but welcoming, boasting hand made modeling stands and a rotating platform that was constructed for her by a skillful and gracious student. There is a lot of love and hard work that has gone into that space.

This is how I know her. A warm and kindly teacher, a respected Artist, and a great conversationalist. She is strong and carries herself with calm confidence. Something that I feel is required when your art form is one of physically moving large amounts of materiel in a precise manor.
I can see why students keep coming back. Her stability and pleasant demeanor make for a comfortable environment perfect for the growth of learning a new artistic practice or refining one's skills.
I've only ever experienced her when modeling for classes and workshops. Her teaching method is patient but direct. She finds the perfect balance between sharing her passion within the structure of steady learning, and laughing at herself in delightful humanity. She upholds a strong respect for her models and (in my experience) is very conscious of making sure everyone is comfortable.  It shows that she takes great care of her surroundings and it seems to be important that the space in which she shares her passions is an accurate reflection of her personality. Functional but warm.
Though she would sometimes fumble her tools and I would find ways to bug her for the odd grammatical error, her artwork was always inspirational. She would fly through a 4 hour session, finding time to tend to questions from each individual and managing to build a breathtaking sculpture, beautifully unrefined and intriguing in its honesty.
I would often watch her as she would step back and forth, eyes darting from a section of me to the clay and back again, feet usually tapping to the comfortable grooves she almost always had playing quietly in the background. Her focus never failed to entertain me and I loved how her expression would change so drastically. When in conversation her eyes would be bright and smiling, but once she got to work, there was an unmistakable intensity about her gaze. It's as if you could actually see her mind dissecting and analyzing each individual section of her work.  And yet she would answer all of the curious inquiries that bubbled up from me with ease, all the while constructing a surprisingly accurate image from what was once a lump of grey.

The pictures seen here are examples of her finished work, which I don't think I have ever really seen before. Everything I witnessed was raw and yet incredible.

If you ever feel like learning a thing or two and getting your tactile on, I highly suggest taking a class from her and absorbing some of her wisdom. She has a vast respect for the greats that came before her, an ability to bring comfort to the sometimes prickly process of learning new things, and will most definitely lead you to a more creative place.

Here is your chance to get to know her a little better.


1. When did you first start to explore sculpting? Was it something you liked right away or did you grow into it?

Well, I made little animals out of mud in my backyard as a kid, but it wasn't until art school that I even really thought about sculpture. The physicality of the clay appealed to me, and felt very natural.

2. What other art forms do you enjoy, what draws you to them and how often do you get the chance to move those muscles?

I enjoy drawing, writing, movement practices and music. Drawing is a part of my regular art practice and the others are very ancillary. I often just enjoy them vicariously through the excellent work of others.

3. Are there any life lessons that sculpting has taught you?

Sculpture as an art really taught me the power of focus and dedicated practice. The most important thing is to show up. This developed a very strong core of confidence in the power of the process and letting yourself trust it.

Sculpture and art education as a career choice has taught me many lessons- from business skills like marketing and time management, to interpersonal and leadership skills. I was a very shy and introverted youth, but now I can pass as pretty outgoing.  

4. What does an average morning look like for you?

I try to maintain an early schedule. 3 days a week I hit the gym, and the other days I let the morning dictate what is needed. This always involves plenty of coffee.

5. Do you feel like there is a general message that your work is trying to get across/celebrate or does each piece say something different from the rest?

I try to let the body speak through its shapes, gesture and mood.

6. When you are in your creative space, your zone, at your most focused and productive, what does that look like for you? (Speaking on a large or small scale.)

For creation in the studio, its usually when I begin a new work that I feel the most energy. Often times this is with a model there, which always presents something completely new and the advantage of a time limit which helps to dispel any distracting thoughts. My favorite process at the moment is short 1 hour gesture studies in clay at a small scale (12"). It gives an incredible energy.

7. What is the most interesting situation or life circumstance that sculpting has lead you into?

It's liberating to have art as a way of life. For the past couple years this has allowed me to design my own sculpture programs, organize group sculpture trips to Italy, and spend time in Paris museums studying the masters. It also bring you in contact with other artists around the globe, which is always interesting!

8. How do you feel your work has evolved over the past 5 years? Do you like your previously completed pieces?

One always hopes they are improving, or at least developing. There is some early work that makes me cringe a bit, but then others that surprise me by still holding my interest. I enjoy a piece the most while it is in process. It's hard to be objective about your own work.

9. What benefit does teaching bring you and where does it effect you negatively?

It's created a wonderful community of people interested in sculpture. I love being able to provide a space for people to come and experience a different way of thinking. They also teach me so much, and bring alot of humor and joy into the studio.

From a career point of view, it is hard to have the time and energy for 7 classes a week and creating your own work. It is a juggling act.

10. What would you say is your best and worse piece of Art that you've made?

The worst is the one that I never made, and the best is the one I am just starting.

Bonus Question - What music/band has tickled your eardrums lately?

Lately I've been listing to instrumental music. Film scores, electronic mixes, etc.

For more information on her and her classes, or for more examples of her work go to her website at:

Many thanks to Melanie for letting me poke at her brain and putting up with my questions during classes. You're a rad human being.

Filtered Expressions - Curious Questions Part 2 - Mike Haisell

Being a Live Model has allowed me to make connections and develop relationships with the most interesting and incredible people, this would be one of them.
I met Mike when I answered an ad he had up this last Summer as I was settling in here on the Island and since then we have been working together, about once a week or so. We have almost finished a full body sculpture and he is currently in the process of doing a bust of me. (Which is pretty strange to see a life size 3D version of your face taking shape in front of you. This is my first bust, obviously.)
I had never worked for a Sculptor before, you wouldn't think it would be much different from the average drawing class, but there is so much more of an immediate connection that goes on within the 4hr time frame of working with only one person, and on one pose.
His studio, which is an experience in itself, is semi sectioned off into two parts. Upon entering, the two glass doors on the opposite side of the room are what caught my eye first, they showcase his beautiful backyard, which has provided me much entertainment in our sessions, watching the war for walnuts between the crows, squirrels and Geosepi the one handed raccoon.
The right hand side of the studio is lined with shelves boasting sculptures of gorgeous women, showcasing them in their raw beauty.  Some of them his creations, some of them from other Artists that he takes inspiration from. Pictures of a few important people (his lovely wife and kids as well as his Sculpting Guru) are scattered amongst the clay women, all clear indications of where he finds his fuel. The kiln is tucked neatly beside the door of which you enter the room from and on the left side is a barrage of tools and machinery he uses for the variety of projects he has on the go. He was once a carpenter, which is so apparent in his creation of stands and easels. He is one of those people who seemingly can make something of nothing. I have witnessed him rework tools, build props and create accessories for aiding in his work. There's nothing he can't find a way to create.

Mike has a feverish curiosity that keeps him tirelessly researching and experimenting.
One of the perks of modeling for these interesting Artist folks is that I get to pick their brains, with Mike, it's pretty easy to get information. He has a passion for Art that he excitedly shares, be it drawing techniques, portraiture, or Sculptors from the history books, he is constantly learning.
Which is obvious by the size of his reference book collection.

With the amount of time we have spent conversing on the ridiculously wide variety of topics, there is much more I could say of this curious human, but I'll let his words speak for themselves.


1. What specifically attracts you to sculpture?
I think I like how a sculpture is a total cohesive piece of art. No one part can stand alone without relating to something else. Ultimately the piece has no better parts or viewpoints, it is all equally important, just as every part of a canvas is equally important but sculpture is in three dimensions.
I like how light can play upon the surfaces and allows us to interpret the form for what it is. I like how it is tactile and can be experienced with more than just the eyes.
I feel connected to the sculpture of the past through my experience as a child living in Europe and visiting the museums there. Building a figure is the only way I know to really know the forms and their particular beauty in my soul.

2. What are your values as an Artist?
Maybe the values of myself as an artist? Yes, Leave no stone unturned when it comes to the path of discovery. Sort of like Durer, who seamed to be looking for the ultimate proportions of the body. I don't mean I'm obsessed with that but I am obsessed with the goal of competency and having control of my abilities and my confidence with the figure.
I promise myself to keep trying, and always be willing to change anything as a part of the process. At the same time I enjoy it all and when I don't I stop.

3. What was the most inspiring thing someone has ever told you?
We are accountable for what happens to us in our life. Somehow, we had a part in it so I don't feel I got the short end of the stick for what happened. That means I am the master of my life. I make the changes that I see that will help me, and I don't wait for someone else to do it for me.

4. Which of the four elements represents you the most?
Probably fire. I have a lust for life, I affect people around me with my attitude.
I like the colors of fire, the intensity and even the sound.

This is what once was a hunk of clay, turned semi face shaped, turned almost complete bust that we are working on. "We" being a loose term, he does 99% of the work.


Where I watch the animal battles that are persistently fought.


One of this many tools of the trade.


5. What part of the day are you the most creative?
I can work all night. Hours can turn to minuets, it's strange.
I once woke up on the floor with my sculpture beside me.
All times of the day are really fine but there are often interruptions during the day.

6. Is there much of a difference between the art that you enjoy and the art you create?
Almost every time I see my paintings I hate them. I would like to be painting like Pino or Schmid.
I enjoy large sculpture of the nude like the mannerists, Giambologna, Bernini. I guess the difference is in scale and materials. I intend to add more expression to my figure's face and body.

7. How do you see your work evolving in the near future?
Like the last question, I want to work larger and larger. I am becoming more aware of composition and adding other elements to the figure. I also intend to use some more color rather than leaving everything in the raw, fired clay.
I will be doing more oil painting of the figure as well as sculpture. 

8. What is the primary emotion that you are expressing in your work?
I am in awe of the human figure. Is that an emotion? I am so inspired from life, I am happy.
What would Michelangelo answer this? He loved the figure and he brought it to life.
It is a process. Sometimes I like to express a sexual feeling or image. I want to portray how beautiful a woman looks to me.

9. If you had to create in one medium other than clay, what would it be?
I would like to create figures in oil paint. I have done this to some degree already.
I would also like to cast a figure in bronze. It is so permanent.

10. What is art to you?
It's funny how that is so hard to answer. To me an artist is competent like a trades person because they are able to handle materials and methods. An artist can take ingredients, mix everything together and produce something readable.
The process of painting or sculpture is very messy but the outcome is not. The artist knows how to put only what he wants to appear on the finished piece. The artist must be able to separate his process from the finished work so it turns out the way it was intended. That takes organization and skill. Maybe that is what an artist is, no what art is though.
Art is the outcome of all that. That is making art. But what is art? Art is that idea that stayed there through the whole process. Art is whatever speaks to the artist, motivates the artist. To me.....Right," to me"? Art to me, is embellishment of life. What adds to life. Life for some could be so simple and dogmatic that art could seem unnecessary. But even in the simple life of the Shakers, their furniture is very beautiful. Man cannot help himself from creating art. It makes us feel good. The Shakers could have used broom handles for chair legs but they didn't. They chose to add curves and tapers instead. All through history it is the same, artisans beautifying the their corner of the world in their profession. Art is everywhere. I'm taking about visual art. So I guess what I'm saying is art has to be aesthetically pleasing to me. Many will disagree. To me at some point the art movement went away from this. That's probably why I hate most "art" I see in galleries today. Antique furniture and art will never die. Where will the art of today be in one hundred years?

Bonus Question:

What musician/band are you really enjoying at this time. (Or is there one that you've just recently discovered?

The Tallest Man on Earth, Sufjan Stephans.

If you or someone you know is interested in the sculpting process, seeing his work in person or if you have a desire to purchase one of his incredible pieces, you can contact him at

Spread love,


As I have done with every Curious Questions recipient, I asked Mike to take a picture of something of beauty that he witnessed in his day.
He sent me this.
Turns out I had taken a picture of the very same sunset before I had gotten his email. Go figure.