Caely Melford

Material Moments

A study of space, body and loss.

My thesis body of work is a meditation on impermanence and a personal navigation of the nuanced and complex role that the feminine has played in design history. After the loss of my mother last May, this work stands as an expression of lamentation and reverence, acting as a guide to process my pain and find my way back to myself. At a time where I feel so untethered, I aim to find my touchstones. The result is a body of work, in the form of lighting and furniture, which stand as objects of holding: personages, monuments and tribute to what I feel I have lost. It is an intimate and personal view into the struggles and complexities of womanhood, the effects of grief and loss, and an attempt to navigate a deep despair. Finally, it is a reminder and a testimony of female resilience, strength, nourishment, wisdom and grace.

My work has been defined within a set of overarching and connected themes which weave in and out of each piece in my collection of objects, and which tether me to the women artists who I reference throughout. Following this introduction of ideas, I present a series of works which explore these themes. My themes are defined as follows: 

Inheritance: the contextualization of the feminine through a constellation of women artists in design history, both past and present, who have forged the way. 

Sensual Acuity: The language of the body, an understanding of an innate and intimate connection between our physical selves, space and objects. 

Thresholds: A journey through impermanence, of time being split in two. The relativity of perception. The dyadic and ever changing relationship between what is here and what is gone.


A modern furniture collection includes a coffee table, console table, pedestal table, and two floor lamps. The tables have an aluminum base and walnut tops. The floor lamps display decorative aluminum shades and central walnut stands.

“Vesta Collection” (2024) 
Coffee table, console table, pedastal table, two floor lamps
Aluminum, walnut, custom LED lighting


I exist within a constellation of women; mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters, who have shaped my creative and personal self. Some of them are my own blood but most I have never met, these women converse with me in the intimate space of my soul. I am situated within a history of these women. And while they are a composite of who I am, when I look to their stories for guidance and insight, I find only fragments of the whole. Pieces of the past, interpreted largely by the dominating voice of the time, so many stories left untold. The desire to acknowledge and honor their stories is a requisite to my understanding of self.


A stack of rotating wooden trays with organic, curved shapes is arranged vertically

“Pirouette” (2023) 
Sycamore, chrome plated carbon steel 
27 ½” (H) x 15 ¼” (W) x 9 ½” (D)

Personal Inheritance

I share in the first part of the book my most raw and fragile moments. It is a view into my grief through writing and imagery. It is my way of remembering my journey and pain through the early stages of grief. It is a way for me to piece together the fragments of my own memory and a way to preserve the stories of my lineage that I fear will be washed away with the loss of my mother.


A modern upholstered dining chair with a deep purple belgian linen fabric featuring curved lines and no armrests

“Resonance Chair” (2024) 
Belgian linen, wooden frame with webbing 
32.5” (H) x 17.5” (W) x 17.5” (D)

Artistic Inheritance

I have included a Glossary of Icons, a marking of tribute and reverence for the women who guided me through. It is a way of organizing and contextualizing my influences as well as a way for me to archive their stories and their greatness. It is a way to address the fragmented histories of these women icons, calling to attention the matter of whose stories were documented and whose we have forgotten.


Two modern floor lamps display similarly styled metallic aluminum segments as decorative shades with a central walnut pole and base.

“Vesta Floor Lamp 6, Vest Floor Lamp 5” (2024) 
Aluminum, walnut, custom LED lighting
62” (H) x 9” (dia)

Sensual Acuity

The language of the body, an understanding of an innate and intimate connection between our physical selves, space and objects. The theme of sensual acuity has many layers. It is a nonverbal language of the body, a way to speak that words don’t allow for. It is a way for me to remember, to process my grief, and to facilitate a sense of closeness to that which I can not see. It is a reference to an understanding of an emotive and intuitive language, one which can be explained as a feeling and which words can not grasp. It is a way of perceiving and a way of expressing.


Detail of a metallic, wavy privacy screen with intricate floral patterns reflecting the golden hues of a sunrise. The surface creates a shimmering effect, capturing the light and adding texture to the smooth, undulating forms.

“Threshold Privacy Screens” (2023) 
Aluminum, birch plywood, assorted hardware
Varying dimensions

I explore the idea of sensual acuity as it relates to my way of interacting with a material as well as how the material can activate the same sensation for the user of the finished object. I reflect on materiality and surface treatment, form finding, and facilitating connection. It is a trusting of oneself and one's intuition and a way to explore the idea of nurturing through an object. This body of work allows me to understand how to use a physical language as a way of connecting to myself and to my constellation of women.


A sleek, modern floor lamp composed of a vertical stack of five aluminum lanterns. Each panel has a wavy texture and emits a subtle, warm light from the edges, creating a cascading effect.

“See You In My Dreams Floor Lamp” (2023) 
Aluminum, Custom LED Light 
75” (H) x 9” (dia)


I have selected to work with a material, aluminum flashing, which can easily shift between dimensions and be manipulated by direct contact with my body, allowing for the form to emerge through physical engagement. The material acts as metaphor, interrupting what is right in front of us, while simultaneously illuminating our relationship to the surrounding environment. The draped and folding undulations call into question the positioning of a perspective: that which is visible to us. It does not reveal itself fully but it is fully present. It defines a space, but its lightness speaks to the fact that nothing is fixed. And while the material is soft and malleable, it also acts as a shell-like structure, embodying the vulnerability of a protective yet fragile membrane. It represents the vulnerability of the last two years as I watched my mother grow weaker. It is our thin armor of resilience.


A geometric wooden lamp base contrasts with the lampshade, intricately crumpled and shiny aluminum sheets resembling abstract flowers

“Bloom Lamp” (2024) 
Sycamore, Aluminum, Custom LED Light 
12” (H) x 12” (dia)

The purpose is to reposition the duality of light and dark, what is present and what is no longer here, and how they exist in harmony, side by side. The form of the aluminum references the folds and softness of fabric while the patina is achieved through a water-based soaking process, creating a visual language historically associated with textile craft. I am interested in using traditional woodworking techniques as a way to merge this landscape of dualities, that of impermanence and permanence, and as commentary on how these constructs have been tied to traditionally female- versus male-dominated craft practices. The result is an intimate and personal view into the experience of processing grief, the nuanced role women have played in design history, and how we might honor and preserve undervalued legacies.


A round coffee table with a smooth walnut top and a unique, wavy metallic base. The base features a reflective surface with an elegant, flowing design, creating an artistic contrast with the wooden tabletop.

“Vesta Coffee Table” (2024) 
Aluminum, walnut 
17” (H) x 48” (W) x 36” (D)


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