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How Melissa A. Mitchell is honoring her heritage through art

By Nicanor Gordon

The sky’s the limit for many creators, but for Melissa A. Mitchell, it’s only the next step. 

Already a renowned artist and designer, Melissa envisions airplanes plastered with her signature abstract patterns. “I feel like my art is already art in motion,” she explains. “That’s why I make wearable art.”

So far, Melissa has successfully taken something as ordinary and essential as headwraps, and made it striking fashion. If you’re going to wrap your hair anyway, why not wrap it in art, she recalls thinking. That’s where her full line of Abeille Creations products started.

As an artist and entrepreneur, Melissa boasts many major accomplishments. She has created a limited run collection of headwraps with ubiquitous women’s undergarments brand Spanx. Her designs can also be found on Footlocker gym wear. Plus, she has also done projects with Peloton, Ford, Nike and more.

Melissa’s art is instantly eye-catching. Her signature style includes a loud mosaic of colors and bold black lines, which sometimes form a portrait, and are at other times, as Melissa explains, “abstract with emotion.” 

Talking to her one quickly realizes that there’s no separating the art from the artist. Abeille Creations are loud, bold and colorful because Melissa is.

While her work is about empowerment, she says it’s also a communion with her ancestors. “I come from a long line of musicians and artisans,” she affirms. 

Lamenting how much of African American cultural identity has been lost due to racism and oppression, Melissa is grateful to her parents and extended family for keeping her Bahamian heritage at the forefront of her childhood.

On top of that, her parents always prioritized her happiness and self-expression – whether it was encouraging her to wear those hot pink boots in elementary school, or giving her the support to pivot away from fields she was uninterested in and follow her passions in university.

Melissa also explains that the word Abeille is based on her name, and as a result, is a direct homage to her parents. Abeille is French for bee, and Melissa means honey-bee in Greek. Her name came from her father who marveled at the impossibility of a bee. With wings too small to lift its body, bees nevertheless fly and hover. They are busy and royal beings. Prophetically, these are all qualities Melissa fully embodies. 

“There’s no way I can exclude God from my business plan. My business is God’s plan.”

Melissa A. mitchell

But, nothing prepares you for burying a parent. 

Melissa’s father – a pastor, artist in his own right, approachable teacher, and lifelong learner, – set a template for multidimensional excellence.  When he passed away at the beginning of 2010, Melissa spiraled into a cloud of anguish. “I entered a very dark part of my consciousness. I questioned God. I cried for hours. I lost my zeal. I didn’t understand this new me. The world went cold and black,” she revealed in a Huffington Post article. 

This emptiness persisted for four years. Then one night, during Atlanta’s infamous 2014 snowstorm, she heard a voice that said, “Paint.” As the child of two pastors, faith has always been a cornerstone of Melissa’s life. So, she dutifully followed the directive. That voice eventually lifted her out of her malaise and into her purpose. Painting started as an outlet for processing and expressing her grief, but soon became a serendipitous sale over Instagram, and eventually a successful, yet still blossoming, creative career.

Now Melissa is the self-labeled, “kaleidoscope of hope.” It’s a fitting moniker that’s not just a descriptor of her style, but as she explains, a metaphor for her journey. “Upon glance a kaleidoscope is black. It’s dismal. But, when you put your eye on that lens, you see so many colors that a whole new world opens up.” She loves to let her art do the talking – welcoming other interpretations. 

Melissa is chock full of these musings. And, as if to fully honor her polymath father, she’s also an author. Her third book, Pages From My Notebook: Declarations about God, Love, Healing, and Manifesting My Best Life was released on February 22, 2022. In this, the sequel to her debut Views from My Kaleidoscope, she reveals mantras designed to empower and inspire.

Melissa holds an intense determination to leave behind a legacy, and wants to make her mark in as many forms as possible. “As creatives, we have a responsibility to perpetuate the goodness of our heritage,” her mission statement reads. Wherever her art goes and whatever form it takes, she wants to make sure it speaks for her, and that it says a lot. “When people encounter my artwork, I want them to say ‘oh this is a dope Black woman; this is a dope artist.’ That might be the only time they encounter someone like me.” 

With a doubt, Melissa A. Mitchell backs herself… She’s her own billboard and wears her work proudly. She’s ready to take at least three industries by storm. And, she wants to pick you up and change your world along the way.

Visit Melissa A. Mitchell online at

www.melissaamitchell.com

IG: @abeillecreations

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