Artist on the Grid: Melissa Tregilgas

By Ashley Robinson

Melissa’s ceramic studio is nestled in the corner of her Midtown kitchen. She sits on a stool facing a tall window looking out on the pedestrian traffic from the nearby Light Rail Station while scraping an old fork across a tall cylinder of grey clay. Her work station is covered in boxes of tools, bags of clay, a wooden sculpting wheel and something she describes as a “sharpy thing.”

When asked if she considers herself a professional artist after two-and-a-half years of working with clay, she slightly chuckles and says not really.  “I’ll consider myself a professional when my husband can work part-time, when I can support my family,” she says.

Melissa is one of 150 Sacramento part-time and professional artists featured this weekend in the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento’s annual event, Capitol Artists’ Studio Tour. (For more info on the event:

Her artwork is wild and colorful, unique, filled with symbolism and character, something along the lines of medieval art. “When people think of that art, they think Gothic architecture, but it’s not really. It’s actually kind of cartoony and silly,” she explains – colorful, expressive and funny. She pulls her ideas from the art, history, animal and other random books she checks out from the library. “I also like illuminated manuscripts,” Melissa adds.

Like many artists, she discovered her kinship with clay organically. Originally a painter, a church friend introduced her to Gary Dinnen, a sort of “Japhy Ryder” Zen-master of the ceramic scene here in Sacramento. From there, she became more comfortable with art and more inspired than she had with canvas and paints.

“On Wednesday nights, a group of us all get together in the Church parking lot and learn from each other,” she says. Gary provides the kiln, raku and basic supplies for beginners, and most importantly, a chance for people to get serious about ceramics.

The church is Trinity Lutheran Church on 27th and O Streets, where her art will be displayed over the weekend. She will have a few ceramic pieces and paintings for sale. “Last year I sold out, but I think I lowballed on pricing because I was the only one who sold anything,” she laughs. “This year I will raise the prices a little bit.”

Most artists will have their actual workspaces open for visitors to check out, but for Melissa, that’s a little bit harder to do. With a husband, two very young daughters, and a cute little dog, letting artseekers into her house would be a bit much.

Even working out of her house has a complex of issues, particularly with an infant that likes to eat clay. “I can probably squeeze in four hours a week to do art; it’s challenging with the kids.” Just feet beyond her work station is a pile of toy blocks and dolls, and the wall flanking her station is a gallery of finger-paintings.

But somehow, Melissa finds the time, and fills it beautiful ceramic pieces of color and character.

When asked how she becomes inspired, Melissa replies, “It’s inspiring to see that people can live off of their art, that they can make it work. It makes me want to work harder.”

Check out Melissa’s beautiful work this weekend during CCAS’s 2011 Capital Artists’ Studio Tour event.

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1 Comment

  1. Summer says

    Melissa is a very talented artist! I have had the opportunity to see a lot of her work and I think she captures complicated messages in her art creations!

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