Melle Finelli JM ’96

September 16, 2022

What led you to become a student at NBSS?

Melissa Finelli holding some of her rings

I have always been making something, but always a dabbler. Although working with my hands seemed inherent, I was in search of materials that spoke to me differently. I was looking for a challenge.

I had walked by North Bennet Street School plenty of times. On a whim, I called to make a date to tour the school—specifically, the Jewelry Making & Repair program.

When I arrived, I felt like I was entering a world of wonder, and became filled with curiosity. I had no metalsmithing experience, but knew this was something I wanted to explore. And so it began. My training at NBSS was the beginning of my wonderful world of jewelry making.

What did you get out of your NBSS training?

Training at NBSS is no joke. It takes dedication, focus and determination. I knew I was not suited to be a bench jeweler, but I appreciated the focus on technical skills.

It’s often overlooked in art schools, and I wanted these skills and craved the knowledge. This taught me so much about the materials I use, and trained my mind to communicate with my hands. As my skills grew, I used these new techniques in my own way and was able to explore.

One of the greatest gifts of my education at NBSS was discipline in my studio practice. Without it, I wouldn’t be happily making as I am today.

What are you up to now?

All stacked up ring

For the past 20 years I have been a studio jeweler making sculptural jewelry from Silver and 18Kt gold. All my work is one of a kind, which allows one thing to lead to the next in my process. Unlike my training at NBSS, I do not sketch or plan out my pieces. I prefer the work to come together spontaneously. Often it is a happy surprise, sometimes it sits on my desk awhile until I know what to do next.

I work with small craft galleries, private collectors, and create work for special exhibitions nationwide. I also show my work at select craft shows around the country.

Did I mention, I love what I do?

Can you describe your work in just 3 words?

Minute, intimate sculptures

Where do you get your inspiration?

I am inspired by everything I see, hear and smell.

Favorite tool or machine?

My very dinged up 101 pound anvil from 1919. It’s perfectly gnarly and has its own unknown story to tell. All its wonderful textures end up in my work. I love that!

Proudest moment?

I have had a very wonderful journey in jewelry making so far. I feel I have had many moments to be proud of, including graduating from NBSS.  A few others that come to mind are being represented at SOFA Chicago, Having a solo exhibition at Pistachios Jewelry, Exhibiting at Smithsonian Craft Show, Having my work featured in Vogue China (that was wild!), and a beautiful article written about my work in Metalsmith Magazine.

Best advice you’ve gotten?

A former boss and mentor once told me: “Don’t be afraid to mess up. Give yourself the freedom to explore and get to know your materials in new ways. And of course there are the happy accidents, so don’t be too careful. If you melt something, that’s what the refining bin is for!”

Dream project or job?

I have my dream job. But if someone commissioned me to make my work on a gigantic scale, I’d be pretty excited!

Any advice for our graduating students?

If you love what you do, keep doing it. Let it evolve and trust in your hard work. The rest will come.