Açoriano Oriental
Azorean Ceramist wins National Handicraft Prize

Isabel Silva Melo discovered her passion for pottery three years ago, at the age of 51, after attending pottery classes at the Carlos Machado Museum, under the guidance of ceramist Delfim Manuel.

Autor: Paula Gouveia

Holding a degree in Plastic Art from the Oporto School of Fine Arts, as well as a post‑graduation in Product Design – Jewellery from the School of Art and Design, Isabel Silva Melo hadn't considered ceramics until then. However, she had already experimented the art of Lapinha, by making nativity scenes and images of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. All this in addition to secondary education teaching.
Since May 2017 she has been a certified artisan in the field of figurative pottery, having received several invitations and having participated in fairs and exhibitions.
This path, which began three years ago, is now recognized by the New Talents in Entrepreneurship Award, one of the National Craftsmanship Awards.
"My dream is to, one day, devote myself exclusively to this passion that I didn't know I had, which id clay", confesses Isabel Silva Melo, stressing that "this prize brings joy and encouragement for the 12 to 16 hours that I work every day".
The artisan explains that “since I started working as a ceramist, I decided to make only unique pieces”, that is, “unique not because the process is artisanal, as all the pieces somehow fit into that category, but because they are, from the formal, conceptual and contextual points of view, completely different from each other”.
Melo exemplifies: “Last year I made representations of Saint Anthony inspired by the Sermon to the Fishes of Father António Vieira, as well as representations of Saint Anthony for the Lisbon festivities. In the series dedicated to the Sermon to the Fishes I made 10 completely different pieces; and in the series dedicated to the Lisbon festivities I made five completely different pieces”.
From the beginning, the artisan has been trying to approach themes related to the representation of customs, culture and religion on the islands: "themes that have been lost in the representation of figurative ceramics or that, in some cases, did not exist at all in the Region", she points out. Each piece is therefore accompanied by a technical file, authored by the ceramist herself and by the representative of the ethnography center of the Carlos Machado Museum, in order to "disseminate the Azorean imaginary, contextualize my pieces, and tell the story behind the piece".
Isabel Silva Melo also developed a diversified work on more universal religious representations, as well as some three-dimensional representations dedicated to painters she admires. "I don't reproduce the painter's painting. Painting is just the reference. I really enjoy recreating a painting and, in some situations, there is only the position of the figure, the context or even a just smile or the expression of the represented figure", she explains.
Melo also works on "non-religious themes, related to literature, poetry, as well as political and social issues that are very much linked to my participation in Colectivo 18, or on special orders and challenges that are proposed to me," she reveals, stressing that she does not work with molds. 

All the ceramist’s pieces are delivered in recyclable, manufactured and personalized packaging by the craftsman/designer Vítor Marques.

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