We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Contreras and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, what do you attribute your success to?
I would say the most important factor behind my success is my persistence. I have tried many different art-related career fields and have failed at several of them. I kept going with a stubbornness that I was going to make a living with my art no matter what. It may have also been a hindrance at the same time because some of the paths I was on were leading to no where or at least not to success and I stayed on them maybe a little too long. That being said, who knows, everyone’s path is different and without all that wandering I may not have ended up here & I also gained a ton of experience along the way.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve always loved drawing & also thought that it was one of the things I did best. I never imagined that I would be successful with art. I saw so many others that had so much more talent than me and felt I had no chance. After graduating with an art degree, I found a craft job that led into graphic design. I learned graphic design on the job and was happy, for a while. I always had a nagging feeling that it was not the right place for me. There was and will always be better talent out there, but also people that are not that talented but have drive. Willing to put themselves out there pursuing an art career. I saw some that were hugely successful so I decided to go for it myself. I floundered around for several years. I did several group and solo shows. I bounced around different graphic jobs – catalog layouts, t-shirt graphics, product packaging, photo styling, jewelry design, logos, spot illustration – I’ve done it all. Still, with all that experience, drawing was still my strong suit & biggest passion. I even got into making jewelry and spent a handful of years developing a jewelry line (hand carving all the pieces out of wax and casting them at a local foundry). I just couldn’t get enough sales to get the business off the ground and burned out having lackluster trade show and craft show experiences. I feel like you have selling skills, you can sell anything, selling is definitely one of my weaker skills. I still am awkward and uncomfortable when it comes to money. I started doing henna at jewelry trunk shows. It was more popular than my jewelry! I was running out of art career option and that led me to give tattooing a shot. It was a long road to get to tattooing, I’ve always that about doing it but it took a lot of failures in other areas, and also a lot of personal growth, to seriously pursue it. I knew I had to make it work or I would end up back in a cubicle. I wanted to do it right, so I got an apprenticeship at a local tattoo shop. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the industry. I feel like my past experiences helped me a lot as far as customer service and working with clients to make sure they left happy. Underpromise and overdeliver is something I strive to do. I am open to learning and growing and adjusting and doing whatever it takes to keep tattooing until I can’t do it anymore.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Santa Monica and I’m pretty much a homebody. Definitely a morning on the beach – Dogtown Coffee in Santa Monica for some breakfast burritos. Maybe swing by Accents Jewelry on Main Street, they sell my jewelry. Possibly a hike somewhere near Malibu or paddle boarding down in Seal Beach. Maybe Duke’s for some appetizers overlooking the water after. Maybe walk to the neighborhood brewery, Santa Monica Brew works, for a couple of beers. I love going to bars that have dancing, who knows if that will ever be a thing again! Wah! Also, it totally depends on the friend! There is so much to do in LA, I rely on Instagram and Yelp to find out what’s happening around town. There’s always something for everyone!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom has always been my biggest fan, my sister, Monica, my biggest cheerleader & my husband has always been there to support me.