By Gina Malone
Melanie Sunshine Dyel had not known she had art in her until she moved from Long Island, NY, to Asheville when she was 28 years old. Then someone gave her a gift certificate to take a pottery class in the River Arts District. “Being surrounded by all of the art here pushed me in a direction of wanting to be a part of all this creativity and community,” she says. “I knew I always wanted to take a pottery class, but it was always just a thought; I never expected to actually do it.”
She calls the class the best gift she ever received. “On the first day I immediately fell in love with clay,” she says. “I will admit it was not easy at first, but I was determined to master this or, at least, be able to create something that I personally felt was beautiful and semi-functional. After a few days it was like someone flipped on a switch and suddenly I just had all these ideas flowing through my mind and I could not wait to turn my ideas into clay.”
Most of her work is thrown using North Carolina stoneware clay with a few simple tools. “My work is influenced by the nature that surrounds me here in the mountains as well as the memories I have of the beach,” she says. In Long Island, she lived just 20 minutes from the coast and traveled there every chance she got. “The glazes I choose tend to flow like the ocean waves that slowly creep up onto the shore,” says Dyel. Even her memories of working in a bakery and decorating with icing when she was young inspire her to add slip trailing designs on all of her work. “Slip is clay mixed with water until it is a consistency that is like icing, which is then squeezed from a bulb with a fine tip on semi-hard clay,” she says. “I feel like the piece is not complete until my slip trailing designs have been added.”
She enjoys making pieces that are functional and can be used every day. With her studio connected to gallery space, she is able to engage with people interested in her work. “I just love seeing people’s faces light up when they fall in love with a piece and just have to have it,” she says. “It is very fulfilling and touches my heart and compels me to keep creating.”
Dyel says it could be the rhythm of the wheel or the feel of the clay in her hands, but whatever it is, creating pottery keeps her grounded, calm and focused, especially since having a baby ten months ago. “When I am throwing at my wheel, it is like entering another world,” she says. “All of the thoughts and problems of the present, past and future just melt away and I am truly in the moment. It is almost as if time is standing still.”
Eight years after that first class she took, Dyel is working in a studio that is only a few steps away from where she first started. “Pottery has now become a combination of passion and obsession,” she says.
Dyel Pottery is located at Odyssey Co-op Gallery, 238 Clingman Avenue, in Asheville’s River Arts District. Find her work also at Art MoB Studios & Marketplace in Hendersonville, Mountain Nest in Black Mountain and, in Asheville, at Mountain Made Art Gallery and Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. To learn more, visit Facebook and Instagram @dyelpottery.