If decorating for the holidays is your thing, then you’ll definitely want to know all about Melissa Valeriote.
The Holiday Queen, as she is known, Melissa creates art like you’ve never seen before. Dripping with mischievous creativity, her innovative work ranges from ghostly glee to Christmas clownery, and all celebratory points in between.
In short, Melissa is a genius, and an inspiration to anyone who wants to carve a niche of their own, receive recognition for it, and make money with it. Melissa is living the American dream, and she’s the exact kind of person we like to feature here.
Let’s please sit down with Melissa Valeriote and pick her brain, and then be sure to head on over to her blog and check out her portfolio. You’ll be amazed!
1. Hi Melissa, thanks for joining us today. Please take a moment to briefly introduce yourself and tell us about your blog (“The Fantastical World of Holidays”) and online stores.
Greetings! My name is Melissa and I am the mastermind behind my Menagerie of Merriment. I create year round one-of-a-kind pieces of art that pay homage to holiday mischief and lore.
My journey in this creative business is long with many unpredictable twists and turns. I graduated from college with a Fine Arts degree, got married and immediately entered the corporate world of advertising for about 12 years.
After my second daughter was born I knew that I could no longer keep up with the demands of both work and home so I decided to restructure my career and said goodbye to corporate life.
With the help of sites like Etsy, eBay, Blogger, FaceBook and Twitter, I have been able to build an online storefront and global internet presence making it possible for me to achieve a balance between both home and work.
2. When we first saw your products, we thought we had been transported to a real-life “Corpse Bride” movie set! Your art is adorable, and since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I fell in love with your work.
Where on Earth do you come up with some of your ideas, such as the unique “Theaters” collection?
At the risk of sounding cliché I have to admit that inspiration is all around me everyday. It comes from the most unlikely places, I only need to shift my point of view.
For instance, the theater idea came to me when I was stacking a bunch of small, leftover boxes to be put away in a closet. The boxes stacked in a certain position reminded me of a puppet theater from childhood. The wheels started spinning and I was off. I like how the theaters act as a frame for my little characters, capturing their mischievous expressions for a moment in time.
3. The attention to detail in your work is immediately evident. Please briefly explain your process of creating a typical piece of art from the moment an idea jumps in your head to the moment you finish it and put it up for sale.
Sometimes I begin a piece with a small, quick sketch while other times I begin by rolling a ball of clay in my hands, letting the creative process cast its spell, taking on a life of its own. Even when I begin with a sketch there is no guarantee that the finished piece will resemble the original concept.
I always begin with heads. Once the facial expression is sculpted, the personality is revealed and I know just how to finish, dress and decorate the final piece to complement the character within. After a day or two of drying sculpted clay body parts, the pieces are assembled onto wire armatures. The decorating process begins by painting and gluing festive costumes and trims onto the figures. With knobby noses and glittered grins the transformation from paper clay to mischief merry maker is completed with some sort of vintage inspired hand held toy or wand, party hat or crown.
4. Nancy Malay told us that Easter was her busiest holiday in terms of customer orders. For you, is it safe to assume that Halloween is your busiest holiday?
Yes, Halloween is a very busy holiday season for me but I am noticing that Christmas and Valentine’s Day are gaining in popularity with a lot of my collectors.
This past Valentine’s Day was pretty hectic for me. I created some Halloween themed Valentines that I sold in my Etsy shop that kept me busy.
Even though it’s not quite Spring I’m already in full Halloween mode stock piling pieces for the upcoming Tinsel and Treasure show in September.
5. Speaking of Halloween, what is it about that particular holiday that made you decide to focus the majority of your work around it? Is it the limitless creative opportunities Halloween offers, or are you drawn to it for another reason?
Being born in the month of October may have something to do with my falling prey to Halloween’s spell. Growing up in the Midwest, surrounded by fantastical fall imagery and memories of magical nights spent scurrying from door to door hunting for trick-or-treats are treasured moments. It is the one holiday where mischief is encouraged, magic is celebrated and reality blurs with fantasy. Halloween is truly enchanting and has all the right ingredients for an artistic mind to conjure up wicked and wondrous bits of whimsy.
6. So many kids today are not exposed to enough art, and schools are dropping art programs in order to cut costs. Where did you first discover your talent and love for art, and do you hope to teach it to others one day?
It saddens me to hear that schools are continually dropping art programs because of budget cuts. These are difficult and uncertain times and the collateral damage from the economic downturn will unfortunately wreak havoc on our already hurting public school system.
But I’m a firm believer that education begins at home. Parents have so many opportunities to expose their children to the arts everyday without ever spending a dime. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the times I spent drawing pictures and giving them as gifts.
Delighting in the reactions from the recipients, I knew early on that these pieces I created were really small tokens of love, connecting me to family and friends. It is that joyful connection that keeps me creating to this day. I am currently looking into some teaching opportunities that have been coming my way. Another unplanned twist and turn on my creative journey… I’ll keep you posted.
7. You have been featured in several magazines for your unique style of art. How does it feel to be recognized so widely for something you devote such a big part of your life to?
Every now and then something truly amazing happens and suddenly your world is full of possibilities.
Being published was one of those moments when I felt the shift of the axis of my world, my stars aligned validating my chosen profession making it possible for me to continue on this path.
It was a defining moment for me that I won’t soon forget.
8. Melissa, thanks again for sharing your time with us. For the last question, please tell us about the most satisfying part of your job. Is it the actual creation of your art, is it your customers’ satisfaction, is it the recognition you receive, or is it something else?
At the end of the day it’s about enriching my life through joyful connections. Through my art I have met generous souls, kind artists and dear friends. I am discovering that we all share a common thread of wanting to connect to other like minded spirits where we can inspire and encourage each other to continue on our chosen paths that feed our souls.
We want to thank Melissa for sharing her time with us. Her products are delightful so please head over to the Holiday Queen right now and place an order in time for the next holiday season. Thanks Melissa, you’re awesome!