Welcome to our B.O.C. blog. Learn about the world of handcrafted ceramic beads, buttons, pendants & components from our talented and knowledgeable Artisans.
The REAL August Spotlight Artist!
*** OK, I forgot that it was supposed to be Mellisa .......where is that rock....***
Mellisa Essenburg
Chinook Jewelry

Located in San Diego, CA

What do you call yourself?... artist, beadiest, ceramic artist, potter.???
 Hmmm, ceramic bead artist?? I usually just say that I make ceramic beads and pendants.

How long have you been working in clay?
 Since 2005. I started making jewelry over 10 years ago then came across Marsha Neal’s work at a bead show. I was smitten, found BOC and had a kiln within a few months.

What clays do you use?
I mostly work in porcelain but have buff, chocolate and red stoneware clays hanging around too.

How do you fire?
 Electric kiln usually in the mid-fire range. Since all my pieces are glazed front and back I suspend them from high fire wire or bars on a bead rack. Occasionally I’ll single fire when I’m in a rush to complete work but I usually do both a bisque and glaze firing.
Where is your working space/studio?
My garage is home to my kilns, slab roller, clay and glazes. I have space in our office for a desk to make jewelry and have all of my beads and packing supplies tucked away in the office closet.

Do you work alone?
It’s definitely best if I work alone… my type A quality control issues get in the way of anyone assisting me!
Name the steps you have to making a finished piece of your work.
 First I create the designs for my pendants with Photoshop and have them made into rubber stamps/moulds. I occasionally will make a mould from a found object or button using clay or moulding compound. Then it’s a matter of rolling out a slab, pressing it into the mould, cutting out the desired shape and adding a hole for stringing. Sometimes I use slip to add raised details to a pendant. I’ve recently acquired a shwack of handcarved wooden fabric stamps that I’m enjoying too. Once the clay is dry I come back with a damp sponge to smooth out rough edges. Depending on the rush, I either glaze and single fire the greenware or I bisque fire, glaze and fire again.

Favorite glazes?
I used to collect nailpolish, I had hundreds of bottles…I clearly have an obsession with glossy color! I’ve traded nailpolish for glazes and have more jars than I should but would buy one of everything out there if I could! I don’t really care for fussing with making my own glazes most of the time, it’s more convenient to just go commercial since there are so many extraordinary options out there and there are enough health risks in ceramic work without including mixing dry glaze ingredients.

Favorite themes, design inspirations?
I’m particularly influenced by architectural details as well as cultural designs…I love Mediterranean, Spanish and Indian patterns (I’ve always wanted a Sari!).

Ceramic artists you admire?
Of course Marsha Neal as she was my first exposure to ceramic pendants and I love her organic designs, Melanie of Earthenwood Studio has been a huge source of support to me and does such lovely small scale sculptural beads, and Joan Miller’s attention to detail always astounds me. I’m awed by all the talent out there in our medium!

Where do you sell and show your work?
I primarily sell from my website, www.ChinookJewelry.com but also keep a few things on Etsy and do an occasional bead or trunk show.
Advice to newbies?
Experiment with different clays and glazes until you find what works best for you. I think a lot of people want to know which clay or glazes they should start with but it’s all personal preference, especially if your goal is to find your own style.
Favorite piece tool or piece of equipment?
Can’t live without my slab roller, otherwise I’m pretty low maintenance.

If you would like to see more of Mellisa's Art please visit!


  1. I love glossy colors too! I call myself a 'pigment pig' because I see a color and have to have it.

    I've admired your work for years and I'm glad to put a face with your lovely pendants. :)

  2. I have loved looking at Mellisa's work and love her glazing results for a while now. Your pieces always look perfect to me.

  3. Awesome interview… I love seeing the artist behind the beads! Your work is beautiful Melissa!!! And thank you for the nice words about my work - makes me blush - aw… shucks! I too love my slab roller dearly. Other than the kiln - I consider it a must have! I'm not brave enough to once fire (yet). I think with all the talk about it, I may try some for my glaze posts :)

    Congrats!!! Keep making beautiful beads & pendants!

  4. Wonderful interview Melissa. You find the most incredible glaze colors. Just love them. And your pieces have wonderful textures. Great. So nice to learn more about you.

  5. Love your work Melissa. I didn't know you were in San Diego--I'm in Escondido, so we're practically neighbors! We should do lunch sometime. :-)

  6. Thanks so much everyone :) I feel so blessed to be a part of this wonderful BOC community.

    (I'm laughing at the picture I sent for Marla to use with the post, it was a few months ago obviously...my blustery winter gear seems rather out of place as I sit here in 80+ degree weather!)

  7. Wonderful interview Mellisa! Congrats. I love your work. I would love to get into clay at some point in the future and have a kiln so I guess that's a good place to start. I figure I should use up all the beads I have bought before I start making more I hear it is pretty addicting.


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