Dr. Melissa Senetar is a Kentucky native and self-taught artist who followed a very unorthodox path to jewelry-making. Melissa started beading as a fun and fashionable way to relax during college. After completing a degree in Biology and Chemistry from Pikeville College and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Kentucky, she headed North with her husband, Michael, and two cats to be a research fellow at the University of Wisconsin. Although she enjoyed her work as a research scientist, was funded by the American Heart Association and had published numerous peer-reviewed articles, she found deep satisfaction in making jewelry. While in Wisconsin, she joined the Madison Bead Society, an open group of bead enthusiasts that gathered monthly to share their love and knowledge of beading. This provided a great forum for her to explore various aspects of jewelry design and she quickly discovered a passion for working with natural materials.
Insect wings from around the world are reclaimed and preserved in Melissa’s jewelry. Using two preservation methods, wings are transformed from delicate instruments of flight to durable jewelry, while maintaining their natural colors and patterns. Each piece is individually handcrafted and meticulously sealed to make a perfectly enveloped wing that is resistant to wear-and-tear. Each piece is a labor of love that takes several days to complete with no two pieces ever alike. Melissa’s jewelry incorporates numerous species of temperate and tropical insects in its jewelry designs. Some insects are only available seasonally. None are intentionally harmed or members of an endangered species. Insects that are indigenous to KY are collected by hand in local parks and along roadsides. Other insects are obtained from either domestic or exotic butterfly farms that breed insects for educational purposes.
Melissa has published numerous tutorials in the Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine and is a juried member of the Sheltowee Artisans, Louisville Artisans Guild and the International Guild of Wire Jewelry Artisans. In addition to the numerous art festivals where Melissa exhibits each year, her work can be found on display at the Painted Cow Gallery in Louisa, the Alternative Jewelry Shop in Nicholasville, and at PhbeaD in Berea. When she is not making jewelry, Melissa likes to knit, crochet, and play with her cats. She also enjoys teaching summer science classes for the Booth Scholars program and is an adjunct faculty member at Pikeville College.