I met Melissa M. Meretsky, owner of M3 Artistry, in a crowded back room of The Telus World of Science in Vancouver. There were artists and painted models occupying every table in the brightly lit back stage area at an event called Art World Expo. Bizarre sea creatures, and models painted like Marie Antoinette sat being photographed and primped for a body painting competition that Melissa was helping to organize. She fit me in for a quick interview, and I sat down to record my chat with this epic renaissance woman, who was sporting lilac purple hair, and an ultra classy looking fur collar.
Musician, teacher, makeup artist, hair stylist, visual artist, designer; Melissa bring a lot of different talents to the festival table! She moves easily from the stage, to the vendor booth, to the classroom, all in MAJOR style. She has a long history with the festival scene, and she’s an expert in the more cerebral side of hair and makeup. I wanted to pick her brain a bit about the face and body paint phenomena at raves, and what makes it work so well in that setting. People love to dawn their war paint!
So you’re a very multi talented lady, you seem to wear a lot of different hats. For someone who doesn’t know at all what you do, what do you tell them?
First off, I was basically a musician starting my career for ten years. When I was performing, I would body paint my friends and we would dance on stage. Then when I turned 30, I was like, all I know how to do is drum and stay out till 4am (laughs)
So I decided to go to school for makeup. From there I went off, and I got this amazing job working at New Image College, where I teach makeup full time. With that comes the festival seasons in the summer. I like to make and design fur collars, and hats. So I’ve always been an artist. So I try to make money doing all these artistic things, but mainly I would be a makeup artist right now.
In the festival scene, would you say you’re best known for your body painting?
No, for my haircuts! (laughs). On day before Shambhala, my one friend said, can you shave my head and put lines in it? SO, I did a haircut on him and the next thing you know I’m packing up all this hair gear, and taking it out to Shambhala. Now I rent a booth and fully, I do maybe 400 haircuts (over the weekend), it’s nuts.
That’s crazy! I knew you cut hair, but I figured you would do a lot more body painting than cutting hair at Shambhala.
Well this is my thing, at 10am I wake up, start cutting hair, and go until it’s dark, and then I go into black light body painting. So I pretty much work my body to the bone, and I usually drive back and I have to teach right away!
So it’s not that much of a party for you any more eh?
No it’s work! It’s completely a work thing for me now, I make enough money to sustain for a few months, it’s so good! I meet a lot of cool people! I sometimes play at the festivals too, so I get the music, the art, the haircuts.
So when you’re playing at festivals, that’s with The Wasabi Collective?
Yeah that’s actually the Wassabi Collective and the Wassabi Duo. Me and the guitarist kinda branched away from Wasabi and we do this kind of electronic duo. I play live percussion and sing along with him, making kind of remixed versions of our songs. It’s fun!
There’s this whole ritual aspect about getting ready to go out and party. Putting on face paint and makeup, and taking yourself out of your regular everyday wear. So what goes into your inspiration for body painting?
It’s really weird, well, it’s not weird. I take the client and I get inspired by their personality a lot of times. I really get inspiration from their body type, the way they act, the way they move, and that creates the character a lot of the time.
It’s an emotional thing too, and somethings I’m actually like psychically feeling their emotions, and I create these images on them, that they can totally relate to. It’s very spiritual for sure, AND ritualistic. I’m taking a human being and making them into a character. It’s very fun.
Why do you think the body painting thing works so well in rave culture?
I don’t know, I think it’s black light based. A lot of that. I only bring pretty much black light paint to Shambhala. sparkles, glitter, jewels, black light paint. Black lights! I think it’s good to change your appearance and go out and just become a different character It feels good! I teach makeup to make people feel and look better, so I think any makeup just changes the persona, it makes you feel better, it makes you become something else.
I was kind of surprised a couple years ago, the first time I went Koh Phangan in Thailand. There’s the same culture there, tons of people charging for body paint and face paint, and it’s all florescent. And everybody does it! Nobody’s going out without their flourey face paint!
What would you like to see people wearing more of at festivals?
My fur collars I make! Seriously. (As she fondled the fur collar she was wearing. Melissa also makes DOPE hand painted hats. Another facet to her multi-talent.)
It’s so fun. They’re faux fur, and they’re so comfy, and you can use them as a pillow at the end of the night. Yeah, that’s what I want to see everyone wear.
What would you say is your spirit animal?
It’s funny, I just said that yesterday! My friend said I look like a raccoon. Then I said I feel like a squirrel. A Ska-wer-elle! So one of those little rodenty things. I move really fast, and I’m always like aggressive, and I grab things fast and I spill things. Yup. I’m definitely raccoony.
I can definitely relate to the raccoon. I got given a raccoon tail a few years ago and it’s kind of become my thing. It’s this whole urban woodland creature idea. We’re like, from the forest but we can erk out a living in the city.
Such a snappy interview! I love Melissa’s style so much, and she has ton of ties to other vendors and artist within the west coast festival community. Hope to see more of her creations on the dance floor and the stage! Hats off to her EPIC talent!
Look for my Hoot or Boot segment with Melissa coming soon!