Sunday, 10 September 2017

Meet Melissa Johns — Challenge Admin

Melissa Johns at the opening of her solo exhibition, A Tribute to Tea.

Tell us what sort of a child you were. Did art play a big part in your growing up?

I guess I was a regular, summer-swimming, cubby-making, over-imaginative kid. Putting on plays and talent shows was a big part of my childhood, and I think my cousins and I made a small fortune in twenty-cent coins opening mini-businesses, such as a hairdressers, clothes shops and day-care centres. Sport was never not played. Netball, tennis, Little Athletics, basketball and swimming continued right throughout childhood.

Art and creating was HUGE in my life. I had an ubertalented aunt on Mum’s side who painted in oils, a devoted pottery artist in an uncle on Dad’s side, and a Nanna and aunties who applied a needle to everything and anything! But drawing and writing was my thing. I created little pretty scenes while I was a kid, and then charcoal portraits and animals as a teen. My story telling was mostly poetic and turned a tad risqué in my late teens.

Piper, Week 19 2017: Music

Why do you make art now?

I wouldn’t be me if I couldn’t create. To elaborate, after my twins were born, I suffered postnatal depression and found that I was no longer ‘myself’. For the first time in my life, there was no creating in my home — no writing, no drawing, no crafting, no upcycling. Everything was just…blah.

After six years of feeling lost, I finally sought help, and then one day I suddenly found myself in the middle of a Christmas craft present-making frenzy. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening — that I had some mojo, inspiration, drive. So clearly, as though it was yesterday, I remember my sister coming over to visit. She looked at what I was making on the dining table and burst into happy tears! Now THAT was a big moment for me, knowing that my lack of self had spread out and affected my family.

Even though I still suffer from depression, I am managing it (and rocking life), and I have not looked back since!

Art soothes my spirit in a way that nothing else can. It is mine! Just for me! With the added bonus of spreading the love.

Melissa's favourite artwork, Patch of Rustic

Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter?

BOY, DO I?! Tea bags (no jokes please, I’ve heard them all), and pretty much any recyclable material with texture that I can get my hands on, including disposable coffee cups, paper serviettes, gift bags, wrapping paper, coffee filters, fabrics, and scrap booking offcuts. I've become a tad picky when someone donates something unused for me to recycle, and I NEVER buy something new and use it. Other than these essentials, I love Pitt and Posca pens and would be lost without my watercolours and charcoal.

Tea Living, Week 17 2016: Collector

Describe your artistic process, from ‘no idea’ to ‘finished artwork':

Generally, my pieces start on a bit of scrap paper while I’m on a break at work. I doodle away and then inspiration strikes and I can visualise the materials. I get excited and antsy until I can get home and begin!

The next phase is very laborious: empty tea leaves from bags, wash bags, and colour bags with watercolour/ink/pastel.

The collaging starts with layout design, and once I have all my recyclables in place, the other fun starts — beautifying the artwork, adding all the tiny details that I hope define my pieces.

Some pieces take several weeks from start to finish. When I’m happy with them, the artwork is sealed, framed and, hopefully, sold!

My tea bag and recycle use technique is unique to me, and I’m unaware of another artist that utilises them in the way I do, collaging them into shapes to create the overall structure of the pieces. I believe that it’s this recycle method that has afforded me the accolades I’ve received since beginning my journey.

Bloom, Week 6 2017: Garden

How do you fit your creative work in with a busy family life? Do you have a routine?

My routine is to ignore the children, or pay the children to leave me alone.

Kidding! My ‘studio’ is the living and dining areas of our home, so my family works around me and I work around them. It is just a matter of fitting in processes between family routine. But once the kids are in bed and my husband is happy to be tuned out, I go to town creating, then reading, then creating, then reading, then creating. Bedtime is when my eyes begin to close.

Week 15 2016: Ocean

What impact has the Challenge had on your creative journey?

The Challenge and this community have given me room to grow. They have strengthened my skill level and have made me stretch boundaries and discover things about art, myself and my tastes that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

The support is what I particularly adore, along with the cherished friendships I have made, and continue to make via our expanding village. The encouragement from the village is like a warm blanket to the soul and has helped me grow in confidence and believe in my abilities. I hope this is something that other people feel when they receive a comment from me, and that it will help them in personal and creative growth.

Brew me a Home, Week 30: Home

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

On a personal level, my best friend Linda D’Agostino continues to inspire me every day with her strength and artistic skill. It was through her persistence that I joined the challenge and committed to my first art show; she literally pushed the confidence into me.

Within the challenge, I’m a big fan of Demelsa Haughton, Kirsty Collett, Penelope Pratley, Heidi Cooper Smith, Raffaella Picotti and Sally Fawcett, just to name a very small few.

Artists that I’m devoted to are Este MacLeod, Paul Klee, Rob van Hoek, Yellena James and Scott Bergey

Paddocks and Pickets, Week 15 2017: Thread

What are you currently working on and what will we see next from you?

I have my first ever solo exhibition happening this month! Let me just say that this is equally as exciting and as nerve-wracking as it comes! My opening was on Saturday the 2nd of September, and as all my pieces are made out of recyclables and mainly tea bags, I had the exhibit opening set for a mock ‘high tea’ — it was a big hit! (The scones…oh my gosh, the scones!!)

Misscycled Art: A Tribute to Tea is showing at the Wangaratta Tourism Centre in Victoria, Australia, until the 30th of September 2017.

You can find out more about the exhibition here.

Swing Through, Week 29 2017: Swing

Do you have a dream creative project you'd love to be able to do?

Ideally, I never want to stop enjoying what I do, which I know is a very generic response, but the whirlwind of the last eighteen months (since my first art show and award) has been epic and seems to be gaining in momentum — fingers crossed this keeps on track for me!

Illustrating a book, or even writing and illustrating a book of my own, is a long-term ambition that seems to be hovering in the mist, and one day I hope to dedicate some time to pursuing this dream.

Inky Island, Week 41 2016: Island

Tell us something that we don’t know about you:

Chocolate is a dietary requirement and should have its own food group. I have twin 11 year old sons who are the most perfect, respectful, adorable children (cough, splutter, choke!!!). I’m a farm girl at heart and used to love riding horses. I know the Wizard of OZ & Grease songs by heart. My mind works quickly and has a sarcastic, twisted bend. I am the oldest of five siblings who are all uber-sweethearts and spunks! I’ve written three novels that I’ve never published. I’m the luckiest daughter, with very supportive and inspiring parents. My husband is a VERY patient man!

Bliss, Week 36 2017: Printing

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