Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday: Interview Series.
Part 3: Melissa Strawser Art
Today for the "Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday" Interview series I will be interviewing my dear friend and mentor, Melissa Strawser about the role of nature, motherhood, and the changes from Covid and their impact on her printmaking and other artwork.
Welcome! If you are from the Lehigh Valley and you love art, you may be familiar with the Strawser family and their artwork. We have been attending Melissa's Young Printmakers Workshop classes and camps for years now. Our children have created beautiful prints on a miniature press that Melissa had made just for her. I also had the opportunity to attend a weekend-long intensive workshop with Melissa and, solar printer, Dan Welden at the Art Establishment near Bethlehem, PA a few years ago. I really felt like it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I am so honored to be in the presence of these artists. Let's get to know this 5th generation artist for she truly is a marvelous gem of a human being.
[above, Melissa in her studio in Bally, PA]
Finding place: So, Melissa, I feel like you wear many hats: mom, professional artist and printmaker, fitness instructor, art educator, homesteader, and caretaker. I'm sure I have missed some. How did you get here? What was your education like? Can you give us a short intro of how you came to be—a few meaningful jobs and trainings that changed your life?
Melissa: Thanks, Lindsey. I'm a Printmaker Artist Sculptress, greatly influenced by my Pennsylvania Folk Art family. Working in Intaglio Printmaking since I was just 19 years old, and apprenticing for 25 years with Val Bertoia/Studio in Bally, PA. I'm a 5th Generation Artist born in Berks County then lived in London and loved it! I hold a first degree from Slade School of Art, University College London in Printmaking, 1994. I was mentored by my Portugues Professor, Bartolomeu cid dos Santos, in his Tavira Print Workshop after graduation and that supportive opportunity created a bridge to exhibit prints in Germany and Portugal. I was encouraged by some real giants in art and printmaking during my youthful, artistic, brave journey.
FP: Wow, as an artist, I am so inspired by you and your work. With all of these accomplishments you also went on to start the Young Printmakers Workshop. Tell me about that. How did it start?
Melissa: Young Printmakers Workshop started when my daughter was born in 2013. Working with small children on our Mini-Hardwood Press made by Bill RItchie of Seattle, developed a fun, interactive art activity for ECE S.T.R.E.A.M., including reading. These workshops were unique for a whole family experience.
FP: [Above, young child experiences turning the wheel on the mini press at one of Melissa's YPW camps.]
Yes, we have loved every class and camp that we have attended together. The whole workshop offers such a rich experience with singing, reading a book, working on a creative activity, and then painting on glass and printing on the press. It really is something that most children would never have the opportunity to do in a regular art setting. Having a background in graphic design and printmaking myself, I was so excited to find this workshop so I could share my love of printmaking with my own children.
Do you have any plans to get a few small camps running this summer?
Melissa: Thank you for asking Lindsey, I'm undecided about the direction of summer camps for this year. I do have a long term plan for a recent proposal submitted to the Da Vinci Science Center. My target is to have many children [school participants] make a print to create a larger, local, public mural—a project to mend those vital relationships between teacher and students, like an outreach program for children using printmaking.
FP: I would love to hear more about that when you have more information. Let's take a minute to get back to you as an artist. I notice that there is this deep connection to nature through many of your themes and imagery, how do you feel your work has been impacted by nature?
Melissa: You're right, Lindsey, I draw my ideas from sunbeams, light rays from people and nature and organic memories. I enjoy living in a biodiverse environment which is inspired by life's purpose to study nature and then magnify it—showing our place in this world and sustaining our importance to the earth. Often I relate new memories that bring to the surface the old memories that were almost erased.
FP: How has the isolation from Covid impacted your design or art choices? Have you noticed a change in direction, color, application, or method with our new lifestyles?
Melissa: I believe that hues of turquoise and gray will heal us all from this challenging pandemic and I'm mindful to include that spectrum whenever possible. The pandemic is something out of our control, it made me want to be a better steward in our community, it made me love being a parent and a caregiver and gave me the chance to put that side of me to the full test.
FP: How do you juggle making art for a living, teaching fitness, and motherhood? What type of support systems are necessary to be successful in these areas?
Melissa: I don't see making art as a juggling act. It is my duty to serve others and make them feel better with art. It is a privilege to have this gift. I surround myself with like-minded folks who are supportive. That balance of feeling grounded is essential for me as a single parent. One year before Covid, I made myself learn something new [aka Email Marketing]. I'm still learning everything I can about Sales and Marketing, that was so foreign to me, for so many years I was mastering my craft and art schools didn't teach anything about how to market or sell the craft. I love the connections I make with others and this is a way to reach a bigger audience. I wake up to a family of health conscious folks, I believe strongly in coaches and mentors. My coach Joe at Arangio Athletic Fitness in Allentown, I'm so grateful for him every single day. I'm faithful to a consistent healthy routine and movement is the best medicine for your mind. I live by setting and example for my family and it starts first thing for me, before the sun rises.
FP: Yes, I really am working on setting a family flow in our home where we stretch, breathe, move, and then start our day. Let's just say we are taking baby steps at our family rhythm. How does your career, lifestyle, and your mission impact others and children around you? What do you ultimately want to achieve in your life?
Melissa: I like to think that my positivity makes an impact on others. It comes from my struggles as a child without a father. I had to trust and believe that this obstacle was the way and art became my definite direction that saved me from despair and disillusionment. Ultimately, being positive about life does not come easy, when I recognize that life rewards action, not reaction, that's when I started making art and never stopped. It's in some ways, my lifeline. I will achieve published prints from my artist proofs and I will publish books. I will translate my mystery and creativity as art therapy that will improve self-awareness. I will achieve a new artist webinar where I can share more ways in which I'm in full control of my thought process from start to finish of a project of art work. Artists are fascinating and their minds will always offer a place for great observation.
FP: I love how your positivity shows through—even there, when I asked what do you want to achieve? You didn't respond with ["I want to or I will try to"], you said, "I WILL..." That right there is so powerful and awe-inspiring. What are some basic tips you have come across that can help people or families to lead a more peaceful, enjoyable lifestyle? How do you always seem so calm and collected? What are your secrets for eternal youth?
Melissa: [laughs] I'm never calm, cool, or collected, my blood typically runs hot. Certain things center me though like beauty, great design, children, puppies, and grandparents. I don't give a voice to my problems or demons and that takes practice. It is important to act now and apologize later. My secrets are strength training, core conditioning, great nutrition, and excellent sleep.
FP: Yes, that is something I am practicing, not giving voice to my problems. I don't want to dump my issues on other people. I also want to get a hold of whatever water you drink because you're so lovely and full of life. I really think you may have a youthful spring near your home. Does your family follow any philosophies, flows, or daily rhythms that would like to share?
Melissa: We believe in God and the greater source, we pray often and that helps me power up to my bigger, higher self. We eat fresh foods, no processed foods, and Church is important for us.
FP: What do you wish childhood and education looked like?
Melissa: Early learning education is most fascinating [to me] when it involves music, art, and movement as a stem to the flower for learning everything else.
FP: Where do you see yourself in five years? What does success and happiness mean and look like for you?
Melissa: In five years, I see myself running a six-figure art business and I see myself as a 60 year old Mommy. I'm so incredibly grateful for my health is my success, and my happiness is my why. I see my daughter and our family growing in my business and in my personal life.
FP: Where do we go from here Melissa? How can we encourage others to recognize the mystery and beauty of nature, childhood, art, printmaking, storytelling, and life?
Melissa: We maintain sustainability in our lives—with our family and amongst our friends.
FP: I couldn't have ended it better myself. Thank you so much for sharing with me [in so many ways]. I am so grateful for your kindness, your positivity, your friendship, and the wonderful ways you inspire us with your artwork and approach to life. Thank you again. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for you. I know it will be bright.
Melissa works in her studio in Bally, PA on her Mini Hardwood printing press by Bill Ritchie of Seattle.
Melissa Strawser Art
If you are interested in Melissa's artwork, if you would like to reach out for personalized fitness training, or if you are looking into wonderful classes and workshops for children. Reach out to Melissa below
Art: Find some of Melissa's artwork and sculptures here
Printmaking: Click here to view some of Melissa's prints
Fitness: Email Melissa for more info on Fitness coaching: Melissastrawserfit@gmail.com
Childrens classes: email@example.com
You can also find Melissa Strawser Art on Facebook and Etsy
“I like to think my positivity makes an impact on others.”
Thank you again for joining us today. If you haven't heard of printmaking, now would be a great time to start looking it up. There are so many styles, medium, and methods and techniques. #printmaking #MelissaStrawserArt #BertoiaStudio #DanWelden #Solarprinting #Art #Nature #Sculptures #MelissaStrawser
#YoungPrintmakersWorkshop #ECE #STREAM #AuthenticChildhood #finearts #sustainableLV #sustailability #thefindingplaceLV #Lehighvalley #printmakers #thirstyforGoodVibesThursday #MelissaStrawserFit #mysteryprints
Art is a great way to release tension, address stress, work out emotions and feelings when you may not be able to find the words. Along with art and art therapy, there is music, movement, play, and nature therapy.
May is #mentalhealthawareness Month and in the US there seems to be a stigma with asking for or seeking mental health assistance, but there shouldn't be. If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, depression, overwhelming feelings or thoughts, addiction, or any other mental or behavioral infliction which is inhibiting you or them from health and wellness, please reach out to someone who can help. There are hotlines, virtual groups, support groups, and so many resources available right now. Find a friend, find a group, find a healthy outlet, get out in nature, volunteer. Live, love, and grow—even if it is one day at a time.
In Memory of Jay Carroll. An authentic rock and roller who has left us too soon.