Top of Mind
Rituals With...Melissa Marsella
By Crown Affair
Meet Melissa Marsella, a Los Angeles-based marketer, creative, illustrator and photographer. You might recognize her work: she’s the artist behind this month’s limited-edition hourglass bookmark (you’ll get one with any Crown Affair order now while supplies last!). Read on for more about her love of drawing, her creative process, how growing up all over the world has shaped her, and—of course—her current haircare rituals. This is Rituals with...
- Where are you based and what do you do?
I am based in Los Angeles, and I do a lot of different things! My day job is running The Feelist’s creative and marketing. Once my duties there are finished for the day, I work on a lot of different design, illustration, and photography projects. That could be anything from designing clothing capsules for brands, product photography, album cover artwork, illustrating something for a magazine, designing tattoos, or creating digital content for brands whose ethics and aesthetics I align with.
- What led you to become an illustrator?
I don’t remember ever not drawing. It’s always been this underlying itch—and no matter what I am doing, I always feel the moment would be better if I were drawing. It’s kind of my way of ‘meditating’ or at least taking time to do something that is just for me.
My family moved around between Germany, Italy, and the USA a lot when I was very young, and I was hyper aware that when I lacked a word for something, I could be understood via this visual language I was discovering. Sort of like Cady Heron in Mean Girls when she says “Math is the same in every language,” but with drawing! The time spent working on a drawing never feels like ‘wasted’ time, even if I don’t love the final result; it’s all about what I learn in the process. In my teenage years, I became obsessed with fashion design. This is what I studied at university, but when I went on to work as a menswear designer at Ralph Lauren I quickly realized corporate life was not what I had hoped for. It left no room for me to play and have my hands in as many different creative projects as I’d like to. My favorite part of the job was designing and conceptualizing, but when you work at a large corporation that is only 10% of what you do. I decided to move back to LA and figure out how to work on all the creative projects I had always hoped to. This has turned into me working at the intersection of design/illustration/photography, and I couldn’t be happier.
- What inspires you and motivates you to create?
It inspires me a lot to find out about other artist’s processes. There is so much to be learned from ‘how’ and ‘why’ someone else makes their work. I get butterflies every time my eyes are opened to someone else’s experiences through their process.
There are a few things that motivate me to create, one of them being when someone tells me that they saw something I made, and in turn it made them want to make something. Nothing makes me happier than when people DM me something they drew! I also constantly want to improve my skills and that is a big motivating factor as well. Sometimes creating feels like a necessity to process whatever is happening around me. For example I often use drawing to help me move through panic attacks, and in turn they feel a lot less paralyzing. It’s the one thing that allows me to focus and turn on a different part of my brain, and puts me in that flow state that can be so hard to come by these days.
- Choose a thing, quote, piece of art—anything that feels right—that you think best describes you.
It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense by Matthew Penkala. I’m extremely grateful to be the owner of this painting. It’s my favorite color (toxic green) but when looked at from just the right angle, you can see a subtle hint of violet going through the middle. It nudges me to look at things from a slightly different angle or in a different light, and reminds me to search for and enjoy the unexpected. The title itself has become sort of a personal motto, and helps me remember not to overthink everything (I am very bad at this!)
- Tell us about your hair: How would you describe it and your relationship with it?
I am very lucky in this department. I love the color, and its thick and wavy texture. I’ve been a blonde my entire life, and recently went brunette and might never look back! I used to hate that my hair was so thick and I couldn’t find the right scrunchie or clips for it, but at the end of the day that’s not the worst problem to have… and now I have the Crown Affair Scrunchie No. 002 :)
- Have you always felt this way about your hair or has it changed over time?
I’ve always loved my hair, but I have had to get used to taking good care of it in recent years. I used to be able to get away with doing the bare minimum—washing and air drying. Only in the last two years have I started noticing a difference when I give my hair all the love. This means using quality products that don’t have harmful ingredients, and learning how to care for it when it’s wet versus when it’s dry.
- Walk us through your current haircare ritual.
Once I tried Crown Affair’s shampoo/conditioner combo, there was no going back for me. I’ve never noticed such a dramatic difference in my hair’s texture after just one wash. So that would be step one. Every other week I use The Cleansing Scrub, which gives me insane volume and makes my hair look like I just walked out of a salon. My hair usually doesn’t love masks but once I started using The Renewal Mask once a month, the ‘OMG how is your hair so soft?’ comments haven’t stopped!
Out of the shower, I towel my hair dry, and apply Crown Affair’s The Leave In Conditioner. It’s the only one that doesn’t make my hair greasy. I adore the smell of it, and I love catching a bit of the scent throughout the day. I put my hair in a bun using The Scrunchie 002 so my hair doesn’t break. Give my hair a flip, wink at myself in the mirror, and… scene.
- What other daily rituals do you lean into most?
My drawing practice and skincare routine are two things I do devoutly. When I was working in corporate design, one of my coworkers told me ‘you’re pretty much going to be here from 7am to 9pm, go home, watch Netflix, and be back here again.’ The rebel in me said ‘no way!’ and made it a personal mission to draw something every single day, instead of getting sucked into what could be mistaken for a scene from Metropolis. Doing this one thing kept me sane, and I have more or less kept it up for the last three years. Mark making will forever be how I ground myself when my brain is jumping around too much.
My skincare ritual has taken me years to perfect—and I’m beginning to realize how important it is to simplify. I wash my face with a gentle natural cleanser, and then use a toner I’ve been making myself for years. It’s filtered water with a few drops of Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Camphor, Tea Tree and Lavender oil. It feels amazing. I follow that with The Feelist’s Most Wanted Radiant Facial Oil. I have always had extremely acne prone skin, and this oil has been such a game changer.
- Any final thoughts you want to leave with us?
I really believe in the power of community, and that starts with not being afraid to chase the things that spark your imagination and follow them beneath their surface. Don’t worry about it leading you ‘towards success.’ Indulge in learning about people, culture, and anything that is unfamiliar territory to you; that in itself is a success. Find the people making things you like and start a conversation with them—ask them why they made what they made! Do not think you need anyone else’s permission to start the projects and life you want to create for yourself. I feel immensely blessed by the creative community I am surrounded by, and only wish for that to extend further and further.