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InLiquid Artist Profile: Melissa Maddonni Haims

Chairs by Melissa Maddo

Melissa Maddonni Haims

Editor's note: This interview with Melissa Meddonni Haims is presented as part of a content partnership with InLiquid.

Where do you live and work?

I live in Chestnut Hill and my studio is in Germantown (Herman Street Studios)

What is your discipline?

I'm a sculptor and I primarily work in fibers. I spent the last eight years calling myself a fiber artist, but I woke up one day this fall and realized that I'm actually a sculptor, which was weird. But it's a lot easier for people to understand. When I say "fiber artist" people look at me like I'm speaking a different language.

What training or arts education have you had?

I went to a number of local art schools while preparing for college, then started my long college career at Parsons School of Design in New York City. I spent a year at Tyler School of Arts (at the old Elkins Park campus) then traveled and took some time off, did a semester at sea, traveled some more, took classes at a number of art schools up and down the coast, then finally received a degree in Painting and Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island.

And, yes, people look at me sideways when I say marine affairs. It's like a mixture of oceanography, marine biology, coastal zone management and international relations. I guess I have a career in defying categorization. I am an excellent receiver of weird looks. 

What are you currently working on?
I've been working on large-scale soft sculpture for the last eight years. Mix in some small wall hangings comprised of fabrics, embroidery and hyperbolic crochet with a dash of yarnbombing and furniture and that about sums it up.

Describe your methods. 
Primarily I crochet yarn. It's fast, it's sculptural and it's scalable. There is also a lot of sewing, knitting and embroidery going on in my studio.

What have you been up to most recently?
I'm working on a couple of exhibitions for this spring. There's The Foragers at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, which runs through March. It's a collaborative exhibition with my husband Josh Haims in which we highlight our mesmerization with mushrooms through yarn sculptures and photography. There's also The Faces of Politics: In/Tolerance at the Fuller Craft Museum, which opens on April 16 and runs through August 21; the show highlights the influence of political unrest on creative vision.
What inspires you?
Multiples. I love to see a million little things add up to create a large piece. Whether it's a field of wildflowers, a pile of bones, a murder of crows, I love it when the sum is greater than the parts. But I love the small parts, too. 

Why do you make art?

I really think that it's our job -- the job of artists -- in society to bring issues and beliefs and concepts and beauty and ugly to the forefront. Art can bring us joy, it can make us question, it can soothe as well as incite. It can be inspirational, it can be devastating. 
What do you hope people will get out of your work?

My work is primarily based on death, dying and loss. But what I hope people take away from it is pure and unadulterated joy. Because we cannot grieve without praise. 

And yarnbombing is just good, simple, wholesome fun. It's like your grandmother's graffiti, and that's just hysterical. 

INLIQUID is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to providing opportunities for visual artists and designers, serving as a free public hub for arts information and resources and making the visual arts more accessible to a broader audience through a continuing series of community-based art exhibitions and programs. 

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