It's an honor to introduce you to Melissa from Chandler, AZ who is witty, artistic and approaches her jewelry making with whimsy.
1. Tell us your story.What brought you to now?
Well it’s certainly been a journey with ups and definitely a lot of downs! I began in college studying Biology which I loved but realized rather quickly that I didn’t have the dedication required to spend my nights with my nose in a book rather than going out dancing with my friends, then I switched to Business and Culinary Arts which I also loved but after spending one day in the back of Olive Garden with a whole bunch of latinos cursing and yelling in Spanish I quickly came to the conclusion that restaurants were also not the place for me. Soon I met my husband, got pregnant with my daughter, puked my guts out for eight months straight before giving up on college for the time being. A year later I decided to return to college fully intending on graduating with a Bachelors in Illustration. Two weeks after classes began I found out I was pregnant for the second time and the worship of the porcelain god (the toilet)….continued…BUT I didn’t give up on school! I LOVED my art classes. It wasn’t until my husband graduated and was offered a job in AZ, which we couldn’t refuse that I decided to put school aside for the time being. A few months before leaving a new neighbor moved in and we quickly became friends. She showed me her vast collection of beads and the things that she was working on. Within a month I realized that jewelry making was my new found passion. I saw a lot of what I had learned in design classes I could easily apply to the jewelry I was making and I fell in love with the idea that my work was being seen on people everyday whereas a painting or even an illustration would more than likely end up hanging in someone’s house for only a handful of people to see regularly or buried on a shelf in book. The love of storytelling I realized I had in my Illustration classes I found that I could relay in a lot of my designs and a lot of the pieces I have designed, I have created with characters from literature or out of my head, in mind.
Well I have two small children under the age of four so my average day is usually spent running to play dates, filling sippy cups, changing dirty diapers, reading stories and tripping ov- I mean picking up toys all with the theme song of Dora the Explorer playing in the background. Other than that I still love to paint even though I don’t really have the free time for it anymore. I have an unspeakable urge to learn urban gardening and to have a vermicompost (sp?) hidden under my sink which my husband whole heartedly opposes with the words “unsanitary” and “completely unnatural” in his argument . I love interior design and probably would have spent a few semesters trying that had I had more time to bungle. I love the outdoors (minus peeing in the woods and large angry bears that would eat me), love writing and have a deep love of bluegrass though my attempts at learning any musical instrument have been comical at best.
Well I think there’s a difference between the words handmade and homemade, sometimes the simple difference in quality and the ability to produce quality goods over and over again, Now that’s certainly not to knock Grandma’s apple pie recipe or Great Aunt Marge’s afghan that is lovingly draped over your sofa. Quite the contrary I think that Handmade is simply an evolution of Homemade. Where 50 years ago quilts, cross stitches and the like were simply things that were made to enhance the home and were usually kept within the family now in the past decade or so serve as the inspiration behind handmade items that are being produced with the same love and attention to detail but are being sold to others and shipped to places the maker may only dream of visiting. It’s really a beautiful process and when you hold a handmade item in your hands, like a rare antique, you can’t help but wonder about its maker and its journey to creation. I think in the corporate world we live in today there is a great yearning for this sense of connection to others, the belief that values of honesty, hard work, love, true beauty and craftsmanship still exist within the general population.
4. What handmade item that you own means the most to you?
Well I would definitely say one of the handmade bears that my grandmother, who is sadly now blind, made for me when I was a child. A few of them have her initials hand stitched into their backsides which makes me giggle now when I think about it too hard but will make them that much more sentimental later on. I have passed many of them down to my two young children, which serves as a testament to their great craftsmanship and durability having survived my childhood and now holding up very well under the abuse of two more.
5. What’s my secret in life? Any words to live by?
I remember as a child when I wasn’t happy about something my mother would always say to me “It could be worse” and my response would always be “Well it could be a crap lot better too!”. Now that probably sounds very cynical and very ungracious but I certainly never meant it that way. What I always meant but couldn’t sufficiently articulate at 13 was “there’s a way that this could be better just allow me to throw a counterproductive and emotional fit until I can figure it out" . Let me explain a little more. I heard someone say once “don’t waste your time beating a dead horse”, meaning don’t give up, but if the method isn’t working don’t keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again praying that it will work this billionth time. We’re all intelligent human beings and what makes us different from every other creature on earth is our ability to reason and to problem solve. Don’t ever be complacent. If you’re unhappy with the direction your life is taking muster up the courage to change it. There’s always a solution to our problems if we’ll just stop what we’re doing long enough to: 1. Clear our heads long enough to identify what the real problem is and 2. Face that problem head on and figure out a realistic solution. We only have a slated amount of time on this planet we might as well be happy right?
One more thought I live by. Again I don’t know the name of the genius who said it but “Be yourself because everyone else is taken”. That one’s pretty self-explanatory. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone or something else. We all have so many varied God given talents and quirks. Find out who you are and never stop being you no matter what.
6. Where do you draw Inspiration?
I am always inspired by my children, mainly from the books and the characters in them. One of my newer designs was actually inspired by a combination of the books Olivia and Charlotte’s Web and my grandmothers small farm in upstate NY. Since I studied Illustration in college I can just never get away from the idea of telling a story in my designs even if that story isn’t discernible in the finished piece. I am continually inspired by the memories I have growing up in New England. Maybe I’m just getting older and my memory is prematurely slipping but I can’t help but think I had a pretty great childhood, nestled in a truly beautiful nook of the country and these memories often serve to help me create the country, shabby chic, backdrop that a lot of my designs and my etsy shop boast.
7. Share your top 5 favorite web sites:
(Don’t go to them now finish reading my incredibly intriguing and brilliant feature first)
2. Facebook (who doesn’t waste too much time on there right?)
3. Etsy (Where my shop and so many other brilliant artisans sell their wares)
4. Junk Market Style This is an awesome sort of blog where you and others post what you do with random crap you find to make superiorly awesome usable and decorative goods. There are also a series of books written by the authors of this blog that are absolutely great.
5. Apparently I DON’T spend enough time on the internet because I can only come up with four at this time.
A few years ago after I got married my mom sent this huge file of all the crap she had collected over the years as I was growing up. Complete with everything from the predictable stick figure drawings of the family with the house in the background and the sun in the top right corner to my dental records from when I was nine and had to have 13 cavities filled (Yes I liked candy but wasn’t a fan of toothpaste), there was also included all of my report cards from grade school. As I perused them and reminisced about how bad a student I was even at such a young age, I realized a recurring theme in the remarks of all my teachers. “Missy doodles too much.”, “Missy needs to put away the crayons and pay attention to me.”, “Missy shows a lot of talent in art but needs to learn to read or she will be useless to society”. Okay that last one maybe I embellished a little but you get the general gist of the attitude of my elementary teachers. So obviously I think I was more creative than anything else from an early age. I just can’t remember not being creative.
9. Where do you sell your items?My fabulous etsy shop is located here: Victorian Swag
And I am also a featured handmade artist at the Velvet Boutique in Chandler AZ and will be seeking out other local boutiques in the coming months.
10. Give a shout-out to a fellow handmade artist like yourself!
Well I have not met her or talked to her yet but I am a huge cyber fan of Emily Winfield Martin. So here I am shouting to her “EMILY I LOVE YOUR WORK! YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS ARE CRAZY BRILLIANT!!