Melissa Fusco - Artist Interview
It's the first weekend of March--goodbye winter! We're warming up to convention season in full swing, and that means the Gathering is SO soon. We're so excited to share one of the most incredible experiences in tattooing, art, and education with you! TN: Hey Melissa! Thanks for coming on.
In preparation for this one-of-a-kind event, we've been meeting with tons of artists to talk tattooing, inspiration and more! This weekend? Melissa Fusco (@meliis_eye), creator of beautiful, new-school and high-color pieces!
MF: Hi there! Thank you so much for this opportunity to join you all in Venice! I am so excited to be apart of this very special event. I am really looking forward to it, and spending time with my artist friends in this amazing city!
TN: We are so very excited too! And happy you're excited. It's all-around a very exciting time. Now, to the action! Do you feel travel is an important part of being a tattooer?
MF: Traveling in general is inspiring, refreshing and a necessary way to reconnect with yourself. As an artist I feel it is necessary to get out of our bubbles and socialize while working alongside other like-minded artists. It is such an honor to be able to travel and do what I love to do... As a traveling tattooer, the goal is to at least break even cost-wise. Anything more than that is great, as we do not get sick time or paid vacation like other professions! Traveling internationally, the artist is immersed in different cultures, landscapes, languages, architectures, and food! It is a great idea to travel to places you as the artist feel drawn to. I have been traveling and tattooing since 2005 and I’m always learning something along the way.
TN: Would you say traveling is your favorite part of being a tattoo artist?
MF: My favorite part about tattooing is that I am the tool for someone to collect a piece of art work on their body for multiple reasons--that I can’t help but to feel emotional about. Clients come to me for so many reasons and feel I have something to offer them in their endeavor. I help them find closure, gain a sense of self through tattooing because of a hard past that they may still battle the effects of today.
Some clients want an image they can stare at, reminding them of their journey and instilling faith in their inner self and strengths. Clients come to me to commemorate surviving cancer, enlightenment, gaining a greater level of self esteem. Some are honoring their religion or spirituality, working through divorce, death and survival.
My clients are real with their emotions, I find most are willing to wear their heart on their sleeve with pride, honoring their past present and future. I feel tattoo collectors can show their vulnerability through tattooing. There is growth in the inner self I see with every client. They stand taller, have a sense of closure, and at times feel more beautiful. This self transformational experience glows with excitement in the new Self - it's undeniable with tattoo art - and I am honored to be apart of that journey with my clients. I see the world with fully open eyes, and my heart is open to all walks of life. I love being a part of it.
TN: Beautifully said. Sounds like that's a lot of pressure, though! What drives you to keep creating despite that potential pressure?
MF: The act of creating is a bit complicated to put into words and explain but I will try… You could say I am drawn to the act of expression without words. Images tell a story, a belief, an emotion, a love for the subject or curiosity. Images are metaphors for ones form of expression. They help release the inner emotional self without opening up the mouth. I find this true in my tattooing as well as painting. Even though my tattoo clients come to me with their ideas, I still feel that emotional tie, and responsibility to achieve the clients desired imagery while having a creative outcome for myself. When clients give me, as the artist, the freedom of creativity, I am allowed to be the producer and director to the visual aspects of their story. It is an honor to be apart of that journey with clients in tattooing, and an intimate process at that. When tattooing a collaborated idea with a client, we start out with just a sketch idea and thoughtful intended outcome. However as the tattoo evolves, I can see how the clients energy has come through the tattoo, which is why I feel so many of my pieces are not so tightly consistent. They reflect the human I am tattooing. This human connection--even when a session is silent--still holds an emotional and intimate power. The skin is the ultimate canvas for me.
TN: Beautifully said, again! So if your tattoos are so customized, would you say you have a style? What do you specialize in?
MF: I would say surrealistic stylized elements from nature. All living creatures above and below sea level.
TN: What makes your approach to these styles unique?
MF: I have been a creative person my whole life, whether in the concrete or perfoming arts. I believe that coming into the art of tattooing with a history of art education gave me a great head start to understanding this art form. I also feel as an empathic human, communication is key. Communicating well with clients, as well as understanding how every client reacts differently, that I must be able to adjust my approach with them on an individual basis. I feel like being a female in the industry gives me a certain level of compassion and natural nurturing qualities that makes the experience unique. My studio is a primary example of my preferred tattoo environment; private, warm and a welcoming studio so that the client can give their full focus on mind-over-body without unnecessary distractions.
TN: (Mind)set and setting are so important to positive experiences! Is the international tattoo community meaningful to you? What does the tattooing "family" mean to you?
MF: I feel a strong emotional tie with those in the tattoo community that I do feel some artists are like family to me. Tattooing is such a unique experience that you can not understand what it is like to be an artist in this field working so closely with other people, unless you do it. Other like-minded artists I feel a strong connection to--not only may we get along in other areas of life and interests, but then on top of that they are a tattooer! With that, they can totally understand the positives and challenges in my life since they tattoo as well. There is a greater understanding of each other, the support is endless and bonds can be formed for life.
TN: What does the act of tattooing mean to you? How do you give back to tattooing?
MF: I feel so grateful to be able to make a living doing what I love to do. Tattooing is such a unique profession. It can be very mentally draining, physically and emotionally exhausting but the end result and a happy client is so rewarding that it overpowers any of the physical cons. Giving back to the tattoo industry daily is, to me, being true to myself. When I was growing as an artist I was heavily critiqued by my male co-workers about how my work lacked the qualities they were so used too. There were rules that all tattoos needed a black outline and such. And all shadows were done with black. I felt then and I still feel it now - as I am always refining my own style, and growing with the industry - that I must be true to myself. If anyone wants to give back to an established field and be a contributor to that field, it is important to bring something different to the table. What is more different than “You”? I feel the best way that can be done is to just do what I do naturally. Not trying to fall within a specific genre, not trying to worry about titling who or what it is that I create. Just being me, doing what I do while always staying inspired. The industry is always growing, it is a smart idea to stay fresh through the periods to ensure longevity.
TN: True artistic philosophy--'just be yourself'! So what are "You" working on these days? Care to tell us about your current or upcoming projects?
MF: My current projects have been consistent, and I feel so lucky to have that consistency with my schedule. I am currently steering away from so much plant and floral work and focusing more on main subject matters. I always try to think: foreground, middle ground, background. And request that even in smaller tattoo ideas. Hopefully you will see more of this shift in my current and future works. Other than that my personal project at this moment is to build a home! This has been pretty time consuming and has kept me home a bit more, and will for the remainder of the 2016 year, so I am very excited to be pulled out of my home state to Venice to join in on this very special event, the Venetian Tattoo Gathering. I have always loved the events that Gabe, Durb, and crew have done in the past and am thankful for their support in my artist endeavors!
TN: And we're so thankful for your artistic endeavors and support! So excited to see you there!
MF: Can't wait. See you!
It's the first weekend of March--goodbye winter! We're warming up to convention season in full swing, and that means the Gathering is SO soon. We're so excited to share one of the most incredible experiences in tattooing, art, and education with you!
TN: Hey Melissa! Thanks for coming on.