Published on 28 July 2016
Mel Rayski-Mati has always trod an unconventional path. Had a narrow minded mechanics teacher been more open to female students, she might have become a mechanic. She became a motorbike instructor, instead, moving later to the film industry, where she created special effects for films including Saving Private Ryan. And now, after a life spent travelling, meeting her husband, having two girls and moving to Hurstbridge, she’s fronting her own metalwork business, Forging Ahead.
“I started off making wall art, basically bending and twisting metal,” says Mel. “From there I moved into making three-dimensional pieces, mirrors and arbour sculpture. I just made a 2.7m high wedding arbour, the brief of which was a picture the client saw on Pinterest, made with sticks.”
Mel juggles metalwork with two days per week as a non-urgent ambulance dispatcher; “a proper wage job”. It’s an ideal situation that not only allows more time to bend metal into beautiful art, but gives her access to thousands of potential clients.
“I work with 500-odd people doing similar roles and they make up a good percentage of my clientele,” she says. “I’ve done other jobs for people who want gifts for family, and a lot of work has been passed along via my colleagues.”
Since joining the Artists Open Studios circuit, Mel has found The Artisan Hills community ncredibly supportive; the polar opposite of the competitive environment she’d feared.
“I thought the metal artists might not be interested in having me as part of the Artists Open Studios events, that they might see me as competition for them. But I’ve realised that every artist is so different that one doesn’t affect the other. The nice thing is, if someone were to ask me to do a job that wasn’t fully my style, I can pass it on to someone more suited.”
In between Artists Open Studios weekends, you’ll find - and hear - Mel in her garage (her understanding, shift-working husband sleeps at his mum’s when necessary). “I’m generally happy for people to visit any time, but I do it by appointment because if I’m half way through a job and need equipment, I can leave the house. Or, if my husband’s asleep, that’s not the best time for visitors.”
Potential clients wanting something made from metal are limited only by their imagination. “Someone will say, ‘Can you make this for me?’ When I say I can, it really clicks in their heads that they can have anything made from metal that their hearts desire."
Mel’s pieces start from $200 and generally range between $400-700; a bargain given their beauty and the fact that some require up to 24 hours work.
Forging Ahead, 16 Wattletree Road, Hurstbridge
0466 726 687 | firstname.lastname@example.org