As a student of Florida A&M University, I had the opportunity to meet some of the most talented & gifted women on the planet. Seriously. Some of my amazing classmates have gone on to become some well known movers and shakers including entrepreneurs, reporters, famous musicians, artists, innovators, & creators.
During my freshman year, my best friend was a photographer & writer for Journey Magazine and had been assigned to interview and shoot a story about a young lady who had 300 pairs of shoes. Three-hundred! She invited me to assist her on the shoot & help get the story. This I had to see! The young lady’s name was Melissa Mitchell.
We had the chance to meet Melissa at her home at the time & immediately she exuded confidence like you wouldn’t believe. During the shoot, she was super fierce and even brought her ideas to the table to help tell her story exactly how she envisioned it. She wanted to take risks with certain shots. She wanted to be a part of the creative process. The shoot was a success and the article was a highly publicized story in the campus’ magazine. I never forgot that shoot, her bubbly personality, or that closet!
Melissa went on to take her creative eye and launch her beautiful art collections under her business, Abeille Creations. Her art is a collection of colorful, abstract pieces that each tell a story. What started as a simple way to pass time has blossomed into a full-fledged business!
A true woman of many gifts and talents, Melissa’s tenacity & drive for all of the things she’s passionate about is off the charts! It’s contagious! She sets her mind to do it and she does it! Full on. Wholeheartedly. In that order. She expects nothing but greatness in all that she strives to do. When you listen to her speak, you immediately hear authority. It will truly light a fire under you.
Today’s Hustle, Honey! story is about a woman with focus, drive, & continues to overcome the odds. She’s incredibly talented, impeccably dressed, & she’s just getting started!
LG of BB: What does being creative mean to you?
MM: Being creative means allowing myself to just “be”.
Creativity is like loving someone— there are no real rules.
Creativity is a way for me to speak without ever uttering a word.
Creativity is where I place my tears, fears, smiles, highs, lows, and dreams.
Creativity is where I can be myself and never second guess it.
Creativity is my home and my escape.
LG of BB: Describe the moment when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
MM: I think I realized that being creative was something I HAD to do from a very early age. I was always the girl who didn’t follow the rules and made being a rebel cool. I have always had a thing for color. I was always most creative with my fashion. To this day, I love mixing patterns, textures, prints and designers. I have always had a need to be “different”. I think this need spilled over into my fashion sense, my career choices, the trips I’ve taken, the friends I’ve made, and the life I currently live.
My ultimate “Aha” moment with my art came when I posted a photo of my art online during the snowstorm of 2014. Someone saw my art and wanted it for their home. I couldn’t believe someone wanted to pay for something I made. A week later, I had over 20 pieces sold. That was the moment I knew I was on to something special. Months later I would do an art show and be connected to some of the biggest art players in the game.
LG of BB: What are you trying to communicate with your art?
MM: I want people to know that they can be anything they want to be and they can achieve any goal that they set out to accomplish. I think my art is a way for me to show God’s love and light. My artistic career is more about my story than about my actual work. I want to be a living witness that God can take the smallest “thing” and make it the biggest.
I think my art speaks of my Bahamian heritage, my love for color, my need to NOT follow any rules, and the ability to create something beautifully universal out of something so abstract.
MM: I am big on energy. To get started, I have to have an open window and a candle lit. It does something for the flow of energy for me. Sometimes, I am so headlong into a paint project that I forget to put any music on. It’s funny how it changes the way I work though. With music on, my pieces naturally are more fluid and have movement. When I am processing emotions and in silence, my pieces have great depth and detail.
To make something an official Abeille piece, I have to truly love it. If I don’t love it, I won’t sell it. I am my own biggest critic. I am always looking back at my work like “shoot, I should have added this, or done that.” When I am done with a piece, I let it sit in my room to soak up my energy. That is when it is officially ready to take flight.
LG of BB: What’s your favorite piece of art you’ve create to date and why?
MM: I hate to play favorites with my babies [LOL]. I do have a few that I absolutely love though. I recently did an acoustic guitar for a client and I fell in love with it. I painted an entire dining room set for a client that was amazing. The mural I painted at M Bar has to be at the top of my list. It was the first mural I created and has been seen by people from all over the world. Each one of these pieces was created out of pure emotion. There was nothing but love poured into these pieces.
LG of BB: Do you ever doubt yourself? If so, how do you overcome it?
MM: I think my biggest battles have been inside of my own head. I overthink my designs, projects that I’ve been invited to be a part of and even some of the work I’ve done in the past. I’m always like, “Should I have done this?” “Is this other artist better than me?” “Did I do a good enough job?” “Will the client love it?” Doubt rolls through my mind on a regular basis, but I have to go back to the way I started my whole art career. God gave me this walk of life and I have to trust that He is using me with every piece that I create.
I often read Proverbs 18:16 and reenergize myself. It speaks of my gifts making room for me. I remind myself that God gave me this gift and this gift will continue to carve my path.
LG of BB: What is the biggest hurdle you had to overcome getting Abeille Creations off of the ground?
MM: I haven’t necessarily had any hurdles. I think the biggest thing for me was being confident enough to take my work to the world during various festivals and other public events. When I share my art, it’s like standing in a room naked. Everyone can see who you are and what you’re all about.
MM: I love that I have the freedom to do whatever I want. I am able to share my love for color with people I may never meet in person. My art has been to places that I may never visit. It makes my heart warm knowing I am in homes, lounges, office spaces, buildings, and places that reach people from all walks of life. When people experience my art, they are truly encountering God’s light.
LG of BB: What’s your life’s mantra?
MM: I have a few quotes that I say to myself daily. I keep these in my phone and on my computer (these are all my own quotes)
If you want to get something different out of life, be prepared to do things differently.
Nothing that is meant for you, will be kept from you
Some things don’t work out for you until you’re ready for them
Learn the art of saying “no”, the world will adjust
God is in the details
Be committed to the destination and not the route
LG of BB: How do you define success?
MM: Success is waking up each morning being excited about what you are doing. Success is being able to help those around you without ever expecting anything in return. Success is being able to create dreamers and doers all around you. Success is being able to make a difference with your work. Success is leaving a lasting legacy on this earth, even after you’re long gone.
LG of BB: What do you want your legacy to be?
MM: I want my legacy to be one that inspires others to believe in themselves. I want to people to stop sitting on their dreams and start living! I want people to understand that God has placed something unique in each one of us and that it’s our job to pull it out. When people look at my work, I want them to inquire about my story and to get closer to God.
LG of BB: Who are your biggest supporters and why does their support matter so much in your journey?
MM: I type this response with tears in my eyes, my mother and sisters are my biggest supporters. They were there from the very beginning. When I started this art “thing” I was only trying to pass time. I never thought it would change my life the way it has. To this day my mom is like, “it’s amazing what God has placed in you; your father would be so proud”.
My sisters tell me all of the time how inspired they are. They can’t believe I took a mere hobby and made it into a legitimate business. They both have been inspired to follow their dreams and pray bigger prayers.
I think my family is my biggest motivation. Since my dad passed in 2010, I have looked at life differently. Because we have no brothers and don’t plan on hyphenating our last names, I have always toiled over how I can make sure the Mitchell name stays strong in the earth. When God gave me this art, I knew this was my sure fire way to make that happen.
LG of BB: Melissa Mitchell is an artist, designer, motivator, and innovator. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
MM: Most people don’t know that I love being alone. As loquacious and lively as I am, I crave moments of silence and alone time. I am an over thinker at times, so being alone with God and my thoughts is the best remedy. I usually take the street ways home so I can go look at murals in the city and new homes being built. I’m a quintessential dreamer, so I ride through the city and imagine all types of things.
Many people don’t know I am also a musician. I played the piano and flute for years. I absolutely LOVE music. Both of my parents were musicians, so my home was always filled with music from all types of genres.
MM: More murals, more motivation, and more major moves!
I have some MAJOR irons in the fire. From (prayerfully) getting a mural in Marta, to being on television, to putting art into fashion, to mentoring artists around me, to simply traveling the world because of my art, 2016 is going to be an incredible year for me!
Each day, I meditate on 3 things: Proverbs 18:16, Ephesians 3:20 and the prayer of Jabez. These three scriptures have been at the core of my career and shaped my experience. I believe that God is just getting started with me and I am grateful to be used as a vessel. You are my witness that this will be a pivotal year for my art career. There are some major doors being opened and I know my story will inspires millions. This is only the beginning!
LG of BB: I see you girl. Keep hustlin’.