Locally sourced wood is the source of inspiration and medium for maker Melissa Scherrer Paré. Her line, Moraye, is built on laser cut, etched, and hand painted wood jewelry that is both modern and timeless. Influenced by the landscape of the American southwest, her chic line is both beautiful and well made. She took some time from working from the amazing communal resource, Makerspace, to get a little deeper on Moraye, her process and the upcoming Maker Market.
Maker Market: How and when did Moraye get started?
Melissa Scherrer Paré: Moraye officially started late 2014 when I changed my studio practice from making visual art to the creation of decorative/functional objects.
MM: What is the inspiration behind your name?
MSP: It’s a family name. My great aunt had a daughter and wanted to name her after my uncle Morris, so she invented the name Moraye. The real Moraye is my cousin who lives in a dreamy house in the Topanga Canyon in LA. The Topanga Canyon with its natural beauty, rustic architecture and culture, is a source of inspiration for me.
As far as I can tell, my cousin is the only one with that first name. If you do a Google search for Moraye, her Linkedin profile is the only thing that pops up. I wanted to find a name that was unique, personal and also conjured up inspiring thoughts.
MM: What mediums have you used in the past and what brought you to using wood?
MSP: I have a MFA and BFA in photography. I also paint and draw, one piece I made locally is the large map of Bay View that hangs in Honeypie Cafe. That piece was made while I was 5 months pregnant living in Brooklyn. At the time I didn't know I'd eventually move back to Milwaukee and end up living just a block from Honeypie.
After years of working in a traditional darkroom with lots of chemicals, I've been half-consciously looking for a material I felt ethical about working with. I've tried working with several materials on the laser cutter like cork and leather, but hardwood has stuck. At first, birch plywood was the only wood I used. A friend that works for the city mentioned he was using reclaimed urban hardwood to make garden boxes for Milwaukee parks. He passed on a few contacts and fairly quickly I started working with local maple, elm, black walnut and even pear trees.
MM: Where do you find the reclaimed wood for your pieces?
MSP: Most of the wood I use is sourced from trees cut down in heavily populated local urban areas(mostly Milwaukee). I purchase wood from members of an organization called Wisconsin Urban Wood. They're a nonprofit dedicated to "using urban trees removed only because of insect, disease or circumstance, not because of timber value". They help keep trees from ending up in a landfill. I also shop for wood at The Urban Wood lab on Bluemound Rd. in Milwaukee. It's an amazing store if you're into wood textures.
MM: How did you get started with the laser cutter?
MSP: I wanted to work with clay and was looking for a ceramic studio close to my house in Bay View. The Makerspace website said they had a studio with a kiln so I walked over and got a tour. During the tour they showed me the laser cutters. I researched what can be done with laser cutters, the next day I signed up and got trained on how to use them. Still haven't gotten around to using the ceramics studio.
MM: What inspires your designs?
MSP: Inspiration starts with the wood and the unique quality it brings to the surface and texture of the piece. Motivation for the designs are drawn from several sources, including a southwest influence, I spent three years living in the New Mexico desert. The aesthetics of the Southwest gave me an appreciation for simple lines, geometric shapes, and bold complimentary color pallets.
MM: Can you describe your process from inspiration to completion?
MSP: Once I've got an idea in my head I draft the design using a graphics program, then turn it into a vector language that the laser cutter can understand. After the first cut there's often a lot of trial and error: the specific piece of wood isn't cutting like it should, the etch of the design isn't right, the laser burnt the piece of wood up. Every piece is unique because of this, I can't just press start and have it cut 50 pieces the same, it never works out that way. I usually cut about 6 pieces at a time and then see what's working and what isn't, and then go from there until I have something I like. When I'm happy with what I have I take them to my studio to be sanded and finished.
MM: What can shoppers expect to see from you at the upcoming Maker Market? Any new items to debut?
MSP: I have several new jewelry designs with brass inlay. Also new are wood wallets!
MM: What is currently inspiring you? Music? Movies? IG accounts? Blogs? Artists?
MSP: Lots of local artists like Sarah Thierman's ceramics, Stephanie Lapre's weaving (her IG account is also meticulously curated) Anne Bisone's ethical approach towards product creation, and Mike Paré's IG account of daily ink drawings. Agnes Martin's book Writings is what keeps me going as an artist.
MM: What is your favorite holiday tradition?
MSP: Decorating cookies. I like to create lots of different icing colors so there's a large pallet to chose from. Friends come over, we drink wine and use the sugar cookie as a blank canvas creating all sorts of art pieces, often Jackson Pollack inspired. Afterwards there's a formal critique followed by sugar indulgence.
Meet the maker of Moraye at the upcoming holiday Maker Market at Discovery World on November 14th. And find her line here https://www.etsy.com/shop/Moraye For more information on Makerspace visit http://milwaukeemakerspace.org/