About Melissa J. Gondek, Sculptor of Special Hand-Cast Gifts

"I sculpt to bring more smiles into the world."

Sculptor Melissa J Gondek with Grendel the art studio cat

You may know me as an English major turned business strategist, who suddenly rediscovered that she once-upon-a-time loved making things with her hands and giving them to people. And then watching those people beam that uncontained smile that says, “Thank you” like a hug full of puppies.

I sculpt to inspire that smile.

Sometimes I make sculpture of little people being kind to one another. Sometimes I give my little people pets because pets make everything better. And sometimes I throw out the rules and make abstract sculpture that just makes me feel alive to look at.

Most days you’ll find me in my one-woman (and two-cat) Los Angeles studio, although sometimes the sunshine reminds me to leave the house. I’m proud (and pretty humbled) to say that my artwork now lives in more than eleven countries across four continents. Antarctica continues to elude me, but that just gives me something to shoot for.

(Have you read my interview in the UncommonGoods blog? Find out more about my inspiration for my small, representational sculpture, my process, and what I look like covered in dust.)

Frequently-asked questions

Why are your small sculptures limited editions?

You won't find my work just anywhere, and never will. Each piece of my palm-sized sculpture is numbered and signed by me, personally, because every piece comes from my own hands.

I create my sculpture in small batches from molds of my original designs. Because molds lose detail with each casting, I can only create a limited number of each design while still maintaining the quality of the original. 

Besides, aren't limited-edition gifts kind of the best?

Is all your sculpture limited edition?

No, I also create one-of-a-kind artwork, especially my larger, abstract sculpture. And my tiny love tokens are open editions, since the small molds are much more forgiving and allow more copies to be made while retaining their details.

Why use cast stone for your sculpture?

Nothing compares to cast stone for utter delightfulness. The stone feels surprisingly cool when handled, and then warms gently on contact. The surface invites you to touch it, feel the contours, and enjoy the velvety texture. Each piece also has a delicious weight and density, and durability to last many years.

Artist Melissa J Gondek at work in her art studio

How long does it take to create each piece?

I sculpt each master design over the course of days or weeks, until I feel satisfied that it expresses the mood and message of celebrating love. Sometimes I'll change a sculpture dozens of time to capture exactly the right breath of time: the position of a hand, the tilt of a head, or how two figures lean together.

On rare occasions the sculpture comes together almost magically, and everything "clicks" all at once - but usually sculpting is more like a rich conversation with the clay, with ample back and forth. Yes, "rich conversation" sometimes includes a teensy bit of cursing.

Do you accept commissions for custom or one-of-a-kind sculpture?

I do create custom, one-of-a-kind sculpture on a limited basis. I've designed special anniversary gifts, pet memorials, wedding presents, and unique cake toppers, and every piece has been meaningful and special to develop. Because the process requires several weeks and close collaboration with the collector, I can accept only a few one-of-a-kind commissions each year. Contact me to inquire about my current schedule for one-of-a-kind artwork.

Fast Facts

  • I enjoy trying to foxtrot and railing against historically inaccurate fiction, although rarely at the same time

  • Gets entirely too sentimental about weddings, TV shows about lost pets, and the wild bunnies living in my backyard

  • Refuses to get worked up when the Capitals lose the Stanley Cup playoffs again. Again.

  • Sometimes driven to fits of hiking, but more often found contemplating the middle distance in company of my incredibly patient husband

  • Passionately committed to discovering exquisite red velvet cupcakes in Southern California, even though my habit of not exercising has introduced certain inconvenient facts about this pursuit