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From graffiti to ceramics | Interview with Gábor Melka, founder of Melka Studio

His self-designed 3D ceramic letters and unique furniture can be seen in the recently opened pop-up design shop Dinghi in Buda. His work appears in the huge figurative mosaic of the Hilda restaurant in Budapest, the Breadpit bakery, the Porcellino Grasso Ristorante and the Buda and Kalvin Square shop-front of Budapest Bagel. But we can also discover Gábor Melka’s unique ceramics and mosaic tiles in Vienna. We talked to the designer about his recently opened new studio. Interview with Gábor Melka, founder of Melka Studio.

Street art, ceramics and typography—these are the concepts that come to mind when you see Gábor’s ceramic creations. And the confusion of terms is completely understandable. A momentary hesitation rightly occurs when trying to define Gábor’s work. They cannot be classified in any of the classical artistic or creative sectors. Nor is it intended to be labeled as any of these concepts. He moves freely between genres in his work, and the objects he creates could be classified as graphic design, fine art or object creation. Having left graffiti and painting behind, he began working with ceramics in secret more than seven years ago.

”In Becske, Nógrád County, we made a manufactory-like workshop, where my Buddhist friends were involved in the work. For a year and a half the ceramics were made here. The background was given: the creative environment, the workshop and the materials. All I had to do was to make sure that what I dreamed of was made.”

If not in the usual form, there is still a certain degree left of graffiti. Under the name RAPA 73, he runs street art projects of personal relevance. He leaves his mark in the form of small tiles wherever he goes. Whether in Budapest, Vienna, Barcelona, Lisbon, Naples or even Marrakesh. ”These are absolutely not out of place. They’re relatively hard to spot because I put the tiles up high. But I always make sure that I place the letters in a way that makes it really exciting.” Everything then comes together at Melka Studio. The studio (with Gábor as the only member) embraces more serious, larger-scale projects.

He is less active on social media platforms. As he says, he is more of an implementer. Still, his works find their way to where they need to go. A lot has changed over the years. But one thing hasn’t—and that’s Gábor. At first glance, it’s almost unbelievable that he is behind everything we see. From the meticulously crafted mosaics of tiny ceramic tiles to the huge, individual letters and elements. His love of the material is as natural to him as is working with it. For Gábor, the underlying professional knowledge that the technique requires has been naturally layered onto his creative ideas as he worked. He sees in ceramics something very few people do. And his most exciting work comes from projects where the client has complete confidence in his vision. His mosaics are part of the image of many places in Budapest (and now Vienna). We asked him which of his works was his favorite and why.

”Each one is my favorite because each project is completely different. This is also because I’m involved in each one in a completely different way. It’s exciting when I have a free hand in the design and I’m 100 per cent involved, but it can be just as exciting when I have to adapt to the ideas of other designers, graphic designers and interior architects. A few years ago, I was asked to design a mosaic for the Samsung floor when the Paris Courtyard was under renovation to match the non-figurative decorations on the courtyard façade. The colored mosaic on the exterior has been reintroduced to match the space, reduced to four shades of grey.”

As part of the Colorful City, he participated in the painting of Budapest’s first colored firewalls. Then he wanted to do something no one else was doing. He wanted to give something back with his work, so ceramics replaced mural painting. It was a big step, a huge investment of energy, time, tools and money.

”If it’s not done out of love, the reality will not be true to the idea. That’s why I do projects like Hilda, because there is no one else who can create it the way I do. And I really love doing it, both the design and the process of making it.”

He used to have a workshop in the Szimpla Garden. Over a period of nearly two years, he filled the space with his work wherever he could, in addition to open workshops. He recently opened a new studio in Gellérthegy, inside the Budapest School building. The recent base also offers space for workshop visits and workshops, where we can build our own letters or mosaic tiles with Gábor’s help using his unique, one-of-a-kind screened ceramic tiles. In this way, he not only leaves his mark in the strict sense of the word, but the community-building role of such an event is also enormous, regardless of the age of the participants.

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