How to love the challenge + making masks for JiHAE’s music video starring Norman Reedus May 19, 2015 10:00

Jihae It Just Feels Lumecluster

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s be honest here. When you were faced with something you were really interested in but found challenging, have you ever said stuff like:

“I need to learn more first. I could never do that. I’m not as good as X. It’s too difficult for someone like me. I’m not the type of person for that.”

“I’m just not good enough yet. It’s impossible for me.”

Chances are you’ve said some of the above at least once, right? Maybe even hundreds of times? Maybe you’ve even thought of this as being humble and maybe it is.

But what’s the underlying message when you think something you really want is “impossible” to achieve? What are you really saying?

Unless you’ve actually tried everything there is to try and have evidence that something is indeed 100% impossible for you to overcome, what you’re more likely saying is:

“This is a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I thought this would be easier. Do I really want to move forward with this? I’m not so sure… ” followed by a lot of worrying about future pains that don’t yet exist.

We’re all guilty of unwittingly falling into this self-defeating trap, myself included. But the difference between being someone who moves forward and one who doesn’t is the ability to catch yourself when you utter these unproductive thoughts.

When I do catch myself, here’s what I ask instead:

  1. Where exactly do you feel lacking to make you feel like your ambition is currently “impossible”?
  2. Is this really something you want?
  3. If so, what is one thing you could do now to start overcoming these areas where you feel lacking?
  4. Are you willing to be uncomfortable for a long time?

And I say uncomfortable because most people are not willing to give up the safe haven of their comfort zones. Instead, they’re more likely to rationalize their fears with convincing arguments about why they’re “not good enough” rather than own up to the fact that they’re probably just terrified of screwing up.

But what’s worse? The possibility of screwing up or never knowing what you might possibly achieve? This was something I had to ask myself in a recent experience where I clearly did not yet have all the “right” skills…

3D printing beautifully disturbing masks for JiHAE’s It Just Feels music video starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus…on a three day deadline.

NOTE: This fiery song is pretty much an ode to orgasm. Video is fairly safe for work though. Here’s what NPR shared in their interview with JiHAE:

It might be surprising that JiHAE (pronounced “Gee-HAY”), a Seoul-born artist now based in NYC artist, chose this under-appreciated ’90s collaboration between The Eurythmics Dave Stewart and the passionate Leonard Cohen for her new album Illusion of You. In fact, Dave Stewart helped make this record with electronic producer Jean-Luc Sinclair. JiHAE told us via email how she took the song and ran with her own interpretation, an interpretation that plays out in this video of intertwining and identity changing lovers.

“I connected how creativity and sexual energy are not only derived from the same place but also produced a very similar experience of escape. The song explores the illusions of self identity and how they play out in love. I went for a Morricone like vibe using 3 chords with a call and answer outro chorus that builds into bit of a musical explosion in the end.”

Around November 2014, film director Agnieszka Vosloo contacted me about needing some very special, life-like 3D printed masks (one mask for JiHAE and four masks for Norman).

As she started describing the masks she was envisioning, I soon realized she wasn’t really looking for my white, intricate Lumecluster Dreamer mask style. She wanted FULL COLOR masks. She also added that they’d need the masks within 3 weeks or so. This time frame wasn’t impossible but you’ll see how the deadline changed later
Lumecluster Dreamer Masks vs It Just Feels

(From left to right). Lumecluster style Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough in white, strong, flexible plastic. It Just Feels Demonic man mask in full color sandstone (not at all my usual style).

My first response was, “No, I’m not the right person to do this. I don’t do color. I can find you someone who can do this though.”

But then I asked myself…what’s really making me say “No, I can’t do this”? It wasn’t the 3-4 week deadline and it wasn’t that she wanted something a little dark. Deep down, I always wanted to create something eerie and this was clearly my chance!

So, what was my real fear? Well…I had never designed/printed a full color mask, never made a life-like mask, never painted a texture for a model, never UV mapped, and never experimented with any materials beyond plastics and metals.

Note to my non-3D printing artist readers: My Lumecluster masks are printed in white, strong, flexible plastic, which is much stronger and also has very different printing requirements than full color sandstone. Full color sandstone was currently the only “safe” option I had for full color printing…but I had never experimented with the material yet. Thankfully my Shapeways buddies Andrew Thomas gave me a thorough runthrough on how to best handle the sandstone material while Malcolm Davis gave me a crash course on good clearcoating finishes.

This was a new challenge I wasn’t sure I was ready for. I also still felt like a newbie since I only spent a few months learning how to 3D model in Blender and was active in the 3D printing world for a little over 10 months. All I kept thinking was, “This is impossible for me. I can’t do this.”

Thankfully, my friend Savannah Peterson (formerly at Shapeways, but now the Director of Innovation Strategy at Speck Design) snapped me out of my typical insecure idiocy. So, I did my research to find out where the holes in my knowledge were and learned on-the-go as I took the leap into the mask project.

The moment of truth: challenging myself to create JiHAE’s 3D printed full color sandstone mask.

Over the course of a week, Savannah helped me get the photos I needed plus a 3D scan of JiHAE at the Shapeways offices while I painted JiHAE’s skin texture and modeled her face mask. While the 3D scan wasn’t clean enough for me to use, it was a great help in providing JiHAE’s accurate face measurements for my own sculpt.

Thankfully, JiHAE’s 3D printed full color mask turned out well enough as you can see here.

Jihae It Just Feels face scan
(From left to right). Reference photos and my JiHAE mask sculpt over her 3D scan.
Jihae It Just Feels face mask
3D printed full color sandstone JiHAE mask.

After a mini celebration over a late night coffee with Agnieszka, we felt pretty good about planning the remaining masks. It felt like a great way to close the week as we entered the Thanksgiving festivities.

One mask down, four more to go. We’ve got time, right? Wrong.

A few days after Thanksgiving, Agnieszka told me the bad news. It turned out we only had THREE DAYS to complete the four masks for Norman Reedus (not counting the days required for 3D printing).

Originally, we assumed we’d have two or so weeks left but Norman’s acting schedule changed, which forced Agnieszka to move up the music video shoot date much earlier than planned.

When Agnieszka broke the news to me, we had done nothing for Norman’s masks yet. So, over the three sleepless days and nights, Agnieszka and I were practically glued to Skype.

The first day, she poured over hundreds of images of Polish poster inspiration until we figured out exactly what we were aiming for. And then my tablet decided to break…so I had to paint with my mouse.

Polish poster inspiration Agnieszka Vosloo It Just Feels
Polish poster inspiration for the 3D printed masks. Reference images were provided by Agnieszka Vosloo.

The second day, after endless Skype conversations and iterations with Agnieszka, I finally pulled together some skin texture mockups for the four masks. While we were making good progress, there was one big problem…we still didn’t have Norman’s measurements.

On the third day, the four masks were only 50% complete and we needed Shapeways to start 3D printing them the next morning. We only had one shot.

There was no time to waste. Agnieszka knew what she needed and she was trusting me to help bring this vision to life.

JiHAE also miraculously managed to bring Norman into the Shapeways office (despite his crazy schedule). Soon enough, Savannah got me the 3D scans and photos I needed to ensure these masks would fit and match his skin tone. Again, the scan wasn’t super clean but it helped me correct my measurements on Norman’s masks.

Norman Reedus It Just Feels Lumecluster(From left to right). My Mask sculpt over Norman Reedus' 3D scan and Savannah Peterson getting reference photos at Shapeways headquarters.
Norman Reedus It Just Feels JiHAE Lumecluster
3D printed full color sandstone Norman Reedus mask

After one more sleepless night and lots of back and forth with Agnieszka, I finally got the OK for all the masks and I sent them to Shapeways as a rush order. Two nerve-wracking days passed as I waited for the 3D printed masks. It was the day before the music video shoot and Andrew from Shapeways called me in to see how they turned out…

As you already guessed, they were a success. I was so relieved…I just wanted to cry and fall asleep on the Shapeways factory table. My part was complete…all that was left was the music video shoot itself.

Norman Reedus JiHAE It Just Feels Lumecluster Masks
(Clockwise starting from the top left). Norman Reedus mask, Jihae mask, Angry Man mask, Demonic Man mask, and Arrogant Man mask.

There was pressure, uncertainty, doubt, confusion, anxiety… Looking back, I loved every minute of it because it was a challenge (and risk) I was willing to take.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ― Sir Ken Robinson

Within about two weeks, I had grown immensely and learned more than I could have imagined when it came to building skill, trusting myself, and trusting others. Shapeways also really came through for me and I can’t thank them enough.

Learning to love (and overcome) the challenge comes down to whether or not you are willing to identify and strengthen your weak foundations. In the end, dreams thrive or crumble depending on how far you choose to venture out of your comfort zone.

But what if you don’t feel like you have any challenges or opportunities in your field? Here’s what you can do:

  • Create your own challenging personal project.
    Not just any kind of project. Make it a bold one that really touches upon your interests and can stretch your ability. When you create things that are immensely interesting to you, others will tend to take notice. But more importantly, even if people don’t notice (yet), the best thing is that your heart will be in it.
    When I first started learning how to 3D model back in October 2013, my personal project was to make my first 3D print a mask of my own design (Dreamer Masks). It was a challenge that I desperately wanted to fulfill. Little did I know that it would become part of the Lumecluster brand.
  • Pick up a new skill you’ve been curious about learning.
    Stop thinking about learning it and actually start learning it. Maybe start by spending 1 hour a week on it and then gradually increase how much you spend your time on it (baby steps!). That’s the only way you’ll learn anything about yourself, what you’re capable of, and where you care to spend your time.
    Recently, I’ve been meeting more and more people asking me questions to figure out if it’s worth their time to learn 3D modeling/printing…without even bothering to try it themselves. No one is going to give you a checklist of what skills you “should” learn or what’s “best” or what they’ll do for you because how we choose to apply ourselves will depend on our own unique needs and interests.
    People often forget that, in order to keep making remarkable things, you have to be unafraid to pick up new skills all the time. We have so many easily searchable resources online now we really don’t have much excuse. For example, there are online course sites like Code Academy, Skillshare, Udemy or 3D modeling training sites that I’ve used like BlenderGuru, BlenderNation, and CG Cookie.
  • Participate in competitions or contests.
    Whether you’re a 3D artist, blogger, photographer, designer, or creative of any type, competitions are a great way to test and focus your energy. It’s low obligation but has the potential to offer great rewards and experiences.
    In fact, my first entry into the 3D printing world was through a Shapeways / Adobe competition. I shared that story here.

Life is too precious to waste it on feeling insecure or fearing you’re not “good enough.”

“At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun…Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning experience keeps you going…And then the Dip happens.
The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”― Seth Godin

Most people fear major changes and tough decisions, which is usually what’s required for doing remarkable work. As a result, most people end up trading in the chance for adventure for feeling safe and secure. Is that a cost you are willing to pay?

Our self-talk has much more power than we care to admit and managing it is especially important if we’re just starting out. Other people may have influence over your choices but, in the end, each of us makes the final call that can make or break our own will.

Adventures don’t come to those who always look for the easy road or throw up their hands once things get difficult. They also don’t come to those who sell themselves short. As a beginner in anything new, everything starts out as something “impossible”…until you discover it’s not. The question is, are you interested in taking the leap to find out?

So, embrace life’s challenges. Or just make your own 

<3 Melissa

Silence your inner listening to it (+ The Dreamer Creed) April 9, 2015 16:00

Lumeclusteer Dreamer Creed
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Ever have that moment when an amazing idea or realization hits you with such a force, it feels like an intense power is just rushing through your body?

You feel unstoppable. Like you can tackle just about anything. So, you dive right in and put all your energy into it.

But as you start going deeper with the idea, the mood transforms. Maybe issues you didn't see before start cropping up. Questions you didn't think to ask start making their way in. Things aren't turning out the way you imagined. Concern and worry start replacing your enthusiasm with your good ol' friend, your inner critic.

Sure, on the decent days, maybe you can easily brush the critic aside. But when the road gets particularly difficult, sometimes your negativity completely steals the driver's seat.

What have I gotten myself into? Why the hell did I think I could handle this? There's so much work to do. I don't have enough time. I'll never keep up...

This is what I worried over even before I started learning how to do 3D printed art (read about my first adventure into 3D printing here). Yes, I was excited by the thought of 3D printing and all the amazing things I could make, but once I started doing the research my excitement got shaky...because there was a lot I didn't know.

The more I realized how much of a novice I was, the more I feared. Before I even gave myself a shot to learn how to 3D model, I started to tell myself that I'd be an idiot for even considering the medium. Soon enough, my thoughts took an even more self-defeating turn...

I'm just not qualified because I don't have any art or design degrees. Oh no! What if the real 3D modelers think I'm a joke?! What if other artists laugh at me for being in the artist space despite never having done any art professionally in my life? What if people think I'm a big flake for jumping around to different mediums so suddenly?

My friends and family will think I'm delusional for pursuing something like 3D printing. It's too hard for someone like me...and the learning curve is way too high. There's simply too much I don't know!

Maybe I shouldn't even bother...

I was so afraid of what other people might think that I nearly stopped myself before I even bothered starting...and it would have come at a great cost.

I had already thrown away two months just worrying and thinking about 3D printing...not actually trying it. But my sister (love her so much!) got pretty fed up with my irrational anxieties and imagined fears. With a lot of effort, she eventually made me realize that I'd get a lot more answers if I took a stab at it instead of wasting more months worrying about "what might happen."

Looking back, I realize now how much I would have missed out on... The most interesting thing is that I went into 3D printing only wanting to make a Dreamer Mask just for myself. But it quickly opened up more paths and opportunities I would never have imagined. I mean, here are just some of the things that happened within less than a year:

    • I won my first competition within the first month of being in the world of 3D printing, which led to a licensing agreement with Adobe
    • I've gotten coverage on most major 3D printing industry sites and even got a mention in Forbes
    • I've been asked to do interviews and speak on workshops/panels (still always surprises me)
    • I helped with the aesthetic design for Natasha Hope Simpson's prosthetic leg
    • I had the opportunity to work with the talented musician, Jihae, and director, Agnieszka Vosloo, on a music video starring actor Norman Reedus from AMC's The Walking Dead (not yet released)
    • I've even had an overseas company try to rip off my 3D printed artwork
    • And there are still more projects underway...

    Sure, there was also the possibility that nothing interesting would have happened if I started 3D printing. Or maybe something else would have opened up if I just stuck with my black & white ink drawings. I'll never know.

    But the point is that I took a chance. And it shook up my world in ways I never expected.

    What this also showed me was that I needed to do some serious work on reframing my doubts and fears. And If I wanted to keep climbing higher, I realized that I can't always depend on someone like my sister to help me snap out of it (after all, she has her own things to worry about).

    I need my mind to always be my #1 ally and help me stay true and focused on my dreams instead of my fears.

    And being a rather emotional and sensitive person, I knew it wasn't enough to try and force myself to "be more positive" I decided to write a Dreamer Creed that I could look to whenever I feel useless or powerless.

    The Dreamer Creed is for those who have big dreams and even bigger (internal/external) critics. I hope this can get your courage and confidence back on track when fear and doubt get in your way.

    “What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

    If you're fighting for your dreams, you always need to have your mind on your side. Of course, we're all human and no one is completely immune to fear, self-doubt, and criticism. Every now and then we're all bound to get a little too caught up in our negative self-talk when we're facing new challenges.

    But constantly worrying about "what might happen" and getting caught up in imagined fears can be a major time suck and a dangerous distraction. That's why I decided to write the Dreamer Creed to help you stay focused on what matters most―taking action on your dreams (and it's a little inspired by the song, Imagine, by John Lennon).

    So, whenever the critics throw some variation of the same old fears in your face and try to paralyze you with worry, just remember that they're only telling one side of an argument. So, listen to what the critic has to say and ask yourself, "why is it saying that?" Then turn its words on its head by pointing out why its concerns are irrational. Offer it an alternate view...and maybe even a bit of peace of mind.

    I did that here with my Dreamer Creed. And I hope it can also remind you that there's a whole other side of the discussion that the critics are missing out on.

    Here is the full Dreamer Creed text seen in the header image above, which you can save and use for your desktop:


    You may say I can't change the world, but I will start by helping causes I believe in.

    You may say I need to stop dreaming, but dreams are previews into life's possibilities.

    You may say everything's already been done, but anything can be seen in a new light.

    You may say we've heard it all before, but learning to listen reveals what isn't being said.

    You may say my ideas are risky, but nothing remarkable comes from always playing it safe.

    You may say I should be realistic, but innovation always needs a bit of fantasy.

    You may say I need to find the right tools first, but tools are useless without a clear mission.

    You may say my endeavors could be a mistake, but mistakes are often building blocks in disguise.

    You may say I should wait until I know enough, but expertise is built through trial and error.

    You may say my work won't appeal to everyone, but creations designed for everyone will touch no one.

    You may say I'll never be as good as my competitors, but I am here to be better than myself yesterday.

    You may say this might not work out, but every experience brings me closer to what will work.

    You may say I'll never make it big, but big wins are built on a foundation of small successes.

    You may say I'll never find the right path, but wrong turns can lead to unexpected adventures.

    You may say I'll be in over my head, but focusing on present priorities will keep me on higher ground.

    You may say I'll end up embarrassing myself, but what others think cannot overpower how I choose to feel.

    You may say my efforts might be a waste of time, but the only waste is to live a life filled with regret.

    You may say I might fail, but the greatest failure would be the unwillingness to try.

    You may say dreams are pointless, but dreams inspire humanity to keep leaping forward.

    You may say no one can really build their dreams, but I say, "just watch me."

    Dreams inspire. Dreams empower. Dreams matter.

    Because dreams can make a difference.


    Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
    In the end, the internal & external critics may have their opinions and judgments about you and what you do, but their words do not define you or your work...unless you let them.

    “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

    What you have to offer matters. It may not look "perfect" or "right" the first time (or even the first 10 or 20 times). But that's okay.

    If you've been following Lumecluster since the beginning, you might remember that this site used to look like shit. In fact, it used to be just me whining and complaining about random stuff (under a different name) because that's what I thought blogging was all about. My earlier Lumecluster versions didn't have any ink drawings or any kind of art either.

    It was good enough for the stage I was in and it's awful when I look back at it now. But I needed those to happen before I could realize how much better I could make it...and to realize that things can be different if I actively seek out the possibilities.

    There will always be unexpected bumps and road blocks along your journey. Just remember that you can also find a way around them. And guess what? Your inner critic will always be riding with you, but you don't have to be worried about it.

    Your inner critic is just scared of the road ahead. What it doesn't realize is that it needs you to comfort it...and maybe it'll just start getting excited with you :) And when you look back at how far you've come, you'll wonder why you ever worried about anything in the first place.

    <3 Melissa

    YOUR TURN: What's your inner critic saying to you that's holding you back? Now stop, think, and ask yourself why are you saying this to yourself in the first place?

    Then dig deeper... What's the simplest thing you can you say or do right now to ease its fear or change its tone?

    Are you brave enough to be a Dreamer? November 10, 2014 09:00

    Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
    “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” –Harriet Tubman

    We all have them, but so many of us are pressured to scoff at them. Shame them. Abandon them. Why?

    Because today's world has masterfully likened the dream and the Dreamer to a lazy, delusional, unrealistic, unproductive, head-up-in-the-clouds, fame-obsessed member of society. A pitiable being who wants all the glory without putting in the work. You know what they say: "Be a Doer, not a Dreamer" and "Dreaming is a waste of time."

    And that's the real shame.

    I get it. We need someone (the Dreamer) to be the bad guy to teach people the value of getting shit done and taking ownership of their lives. And trust me, I'm all about getting things done.

    But it's a confusing shame that we start by encouraging our youth to "never stop dreaming," "make a difference," and believe that they "can be and do anything." And then suddenly, upon entering young adulthood, the dialogue takes a "practical" turn where we spew variations of how important it is to "wake up and face reality" and "be realistic" in order to survive the "real world."

    It's like a euphemism for "Who the hell do you think you are to believe you can do anything great? Sit the fuck down."

    So, what does this "real world" need anyway?
    "The only way we really create change is to enter any situation with the humility to listen and to recognize the world as it is, and then the audacity to dream what it could be, to have the patience to start and let the work teach you, to be willing to lead when you need to lead, and to listen."–Jacqueline Novogratz
    Yes, the world needs people to show up and take action every day. But it also needs people who aren't afraid to dream up what's never been done, to be bold enough to challenge the status quo, and to be brave enough to believe that their ideas can make a difference. All of this contributes to our collective survival, don't you think?

    In the end, dreams are a vital seed that leads to breakthroughs and innovations.

    Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
    Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough

    But how can we keep taking action on bringing our world to unknown heights if we increasingly smother the human desire to dream in favor of "being practical"? Heck, we were born with the gift of curiosity, creativity, and imagination. If we push down the practice of dreaming, then we are throwing away these gifts.

    Every great innovation that has led to our modern day society came from minds that were largely condemned for having dreams once considered "unimaginable" and even "absurd." Think back to visionaries like Harriet Tubman, Ludwig van Beethoven,The Wright Brothers, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Gloria Steinem...

    Or in our present day, look at Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai, Chris Hadfield, Jacqueline Novogratz...

    If they all took the advice to "be realistic," where do you think they'd be today? Where would we be today? It's only human to want to believe in dreams because dreams are what gives us hope. And hope is what gives us reason to believe we could create a better future. And if we want to keep building brighter futures, we need Dreamers who are daring enough to dream up what could be possible.

    "Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning." –Gloria Steinem

    The point is that it's time to change how we talk about Dreamers and stop using the Dreamer as a putdown and scapegoat definition for the unproductive and the lazy. It's time to reclaim the Dreamer within each of us, break free from living monotonously, and free ourselves from being afraid to fight for our dreams.

    And no one should be afraid to dream about what's possible. Deep down, dreams are just goals instilled with optimism and hope. And right now, more than ever, the world needs Dreamers to believe they can make real what's still unreal.

    We need Dreamers to believe they can make a difference.

    In a constantly evolving world, we need ideas that can make change. If we open our minds, Dreamers can change the world. It all begins when we start believing in our dreams. And there's nothing lazy about that.

    Are you brave enough to be a Dreamer?

    What do you think? Did any of this resonate with you? If so, can you do me a small favor? Send this post to someone you think would benefit from this and ask them to read it. We need to find the Dreamers among us. So, please spread the word. Thank you.

    <3 Melissa

    Ever struggle to get the attention your business deserves? (quick event announcement) May 7, 2014 14:00

    Lumecluster Ilumination Mask
    Ever wonder why some businesses get noticed over others? What are they doing right and what can you do?

    Ever wish you could just ask them about how they got moving?

    Well, you're in luck...

    If you're in New York, building a creative business, seeking inspiration or simply curious about 3D printed design, then join me at a panel at the Wix Lounge with Shapeways (the world's largest online 3D Printing Community, Marketplace and Service).

    In honor of National Small Business Week, which runs from May 12-19, Shapeways has put together a special event panel:

    NYC Meetup: Online Tools to Build Your Maker Business
    Monday, May 12th
    6:00 - 8:30 PM
    Wix Lounge 
    (a free co-working and event space for creative professionals by

    235 West 23rd Street | 8th floor | New York, NY 10011

    (limited seating)

    Lumecluster Sweet Dreams pendant
    The event will host a panel discussion with me and two other top Shapeways designers and shop owners:

    We'll discuss our adventures in the world of 3D printing, share experiences, swap advice, and discuss tools that have helped us build each of our distinct creative businesses.

    Oh, and you can also check out and play with some of my most recent 3D printed art and designs. If you're itching to discover new ideas and possibilities, grab your seat and I'll see you there.

    Talk again soon :)

    <3 Melissa

    How to keep hope alive when your dreams are falling apart April 22, 2014 14:00

     Natasha Hope Simpson prosthetic leg Lumecluster

    “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” ― Helen Keller

    I’d like you to think back…to that first time (or the many times) when you (re)discovered what you’re meant to do with your life or to that moment when you thought you finally “figured it out.”

    It felt amazing, didn’t it? Your mind was racing with thoughts and ideas. That huge rush of anticipation and purpose flooded your entire being because your life felt like it was finally heading in some clearer direction. In those moments, your life felt perfect.

    But in one fell swoop, that hopeful optimism can be fractured. Maybe by a bad business decision, perfection paralysis, failing to turn an idea into reality, realizing something isn’t your passion after all, or struggling to make ends meet…

    Overwhelmed with anger, fear, or frustration, you might attempt to convince yourself that the once crystal clear path has become a sloppy mess of “wasted” energy and “silly” aspirations. Your mind cycles through variations of, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why can’t this be easier?” But I bet your favorite one of all is…

    “Will I ever really make it?”

    Sure, life will throw you curveballs and the downers will always make you question your choices by pressuring you to “face the facts” and “be realistic.” But in the end, it all comes down to one thing:


    You can either choose the empowering perspective or the disempowering one. Because no matter what you experience or what other people say about you (or what you do), YOU have the final word on what you choose to tell yourself and how you perceive your experiences.

    Sound hard? It doesn’t have to be. To prove it to you, I’d like to share a story.

    Natasha Hope-Simpson & 3D printed prosthetics: a story about turning tragedy into creative hope…

    As you may know, I began my journey in 3D printing back in October 2013. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with people who constantly push the limits of their expectations and imagination.

    In March 2014, one of those amazing people I met was Kendall Joudrie, founder of Truro-based Thinking Robot Studios. From Kendall, I learned about Natasha Hope-Simpson, a 24-year-old artist/musician who lost her leg in a hit-and-run car collision in her hometown of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

    Despite going through eight surgeries, Natasha’s leg was too mangled and she was told that she would never be able to walk properly again. So, she made the tough decision to amputate her leg.

    Natasha Hope Simpson
    Photo by Eliot Wright

    While Natasha was a victim, she did not remain a victim of her circumstance.

    “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami

    Although the driver(s) that crushed her leg has still not been found, Natasha told CBC News, “There’s a big part of me that’s forgiven them…holding on to angry feelings prevents you from moving on and I need to move on.”

    She chose to discover new possibilities instead of despairing. She chose to see her loss as an opportunity for artistic potential in prosthetics instead of thinking her future is lost. And although her old way of life had been ripped away from her, she chose to believe that she could build a new way of life.

    One of her early efforts was when she spoke to a class at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University’s Institute for Applied Creativity (NSCAD), the university she had graduated from. She spoke to the class about wanting to design a better prosthetic limb that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

    That day, NSCAD director, Gregor Ash, happened to hear her speak. Inspired by her speech, Gregor connected Natasha with Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Dakov of Thinking Robot Studios, who offered to help her engineer a prototype prosthetic in time for NSCAD Halifax’s first-ever Maker Symposium. And so began Natasha’s beautiful journey down a new road…

    Natasha Hope Simpson leg scanLaser scan and white light scan of Natasha's leg

    Hopes and dreams begin when you choose to plant the seed of possibility.

    In order for that seed to grow, it must be tended to with patience, perseverance, and ambition. And when that seed first sprouts, people notice and may even aid in its growth. For Natasha, people definitely noticed her sprouts.

    While it began with NSCAD and Thinking Robot Studios, Mike Fanning of NovaCad (3D Systems reseller) offered to print the prototype using the 3D Systems Boston service. Ian Weir, Department of National Defense, along with Paul Ragot performed a laser scan of her good leg to capture her symmetry. Bob Garrish of Spring Loaded Technology performed a white light scan to aid in design. Finally, Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Dakov of Thinking Robot Studios consulted with Natasha and engineered a stable prototype. The only thing that was left was aesthetics and there was very little time left before the Halifax Maker Symposium.

    Natasha Hope Simpson prosthetic leg
    Photo on the right by Eliot Wright

    Natasha had lots of ideas, but no time. However, she noticed my Dreamer/Nightmare masks and instantly fell in love with them. And so, Kendall Joudrie contacted me immediately. Needless to say, I was deeply moved by her story and was happy to donate my design to the project. I will continue collaborating with Thinking Robot over the next year as they develop a final prosthetic for Natasha.

    Designing and engineering prototypes normally takes many months. But for Natasha’s prosthetic from concept to product? 15 days.

    It’s amazing what a single person or a group of people can do when they make something their mission. You know what they say: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    As cliché as this is, it’s true. Yes, your path will always be littered with obstacles, uncertainties, and failures. But it doesn’t mean they have to be feared or disliked every time they enter the picture.

    What can make all the difference is how you consciously decide to respond and react to your experiences. Because when you learn to love the challenge, nothing can stop you from moving forward.

    Here are some key thoughts and perspectives to keep up the hope:

    • If you’re always watching the ground to avoid stumbling, you might just miss something beautiful.
    • Your future success depends on what you can do today, not yesterday or tomorrow.
    • What you’re afraid of is only a construct of your imagined reality, not your real life.
    • Dreams thrive when they have the freedom to roam.
    • The future is built by those who can draw from their wildest dreams.
    • Occasionally, you can discover a better path when you take a wrong turn.
    • Mistakes and failures are often building blocks in disguise.
    • The greater the challenge, the greater the victory.
    • Sometimes dreams need to fall apart in order to take on new forms.

    “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ― Maya Angelou

    Some of life’s most troubling moments often produce the most meaningful experiences, don’t you think? In the end, hardships don’t exist to tear down your hopes and dreams. They serve to make you wiser, stronger, and smarter if you can see the lessons in them.

    The only thing that could truly destroy your dreams is if you wait and refuse to make a choice. To take a chance.

    So, don’t wait for hope. Make your hope.

    And show the world what your dreams are made of.

    <3 Melissa
    P.S. If you want to follow what I’m designing next, join me on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. What to expect next: finely detailed 3D printed jewelry

    Also check out the video here:

    Photo by Eliot Wright
    Photo by Eliot Wright

    Believing in yourself when you feel like a fraud. . .plus a special event announcement February 10, 2014 08:00

    Lumecluster 3D Printshow

    Ever feel like you don't belong or wonder if you're worthy of attention?

    Have you questioned whether you deserved or have the right to do what you're doing?

    Perhaps you've doubted the reality of when good things actually happen to you?

    Or do you ever simply feel like a fraud?

    It's no secret that feeling like a fraud, fake, loser, etc. has always been a problem of mine. In some ways, I've overcome these anxieties but they always strike in new forms.

    A while ago, I wrote about my struggle with believing in myself as an artist and as an entrepreneur. I always wonder why I can't just believe.

    I mean, I survived building a business, built this pretty decent blog along the way, brought art back into my life, and even got to experience my work in a gallery. I always carry out my ambitions and seek new levels even if I'm not entirely certain about my path.

    In fact, four months ago (October 2013), I got tired of selling my illustrations in the form of posters, pillows, and the occasional iphone/ipad decal. So, I decided to learn 3D modeling and printing.
    Lumecluster Dreamer Mask IlluminationI immediately fell deeply in love with 3D modeling and printing. The learning curve was steep, I crashed my computer more times than I can remember, I occasionally forgot to go to sleep, and I mostly stumbled around blindly.
    And I loved every second of it. I knew this was my art's next evolutionary step, which brings me to...

    THE AWESOME NEWS: I've been selected to showcase alongside some amazing 3D artists in the prestigious Adobe & Shapeways artist exhibition in the 3D Printshow in NYC from February 12-15 (more details below).

    And you know what my first thought was when I was emailed about this news?

    They must have made a mistake. Maybe this email was supposed to go to someone else. Maybe they're pitying me.

    So, what did I do? Instead of joyfully replying back, I actually waited for this imaginary email that would inform me of their careless error. I waited for nearly three hours...but no amendment email came.

    Talk about a serious case of impostor syndrome...

    Even worse, I looked up all the other exhibition artists and found architects, designers, sculptors, senior modeler...10 years experience, 20 years experience...fine arts and architecture degrees here and there... My insecurity increasingly chiseled away my confidence.

    They're the real artists. They're the pros. I don't belong there. They'll see me as a joke. A wannabe.

    Maybe you think I'm ridiculous. Or perhaps you've felt this way too—the constant inadequacy and feeling like you're entering territory you don't belong in. As if at any moment, someone's going to discover you in all your shameful ineptitude.

    I've never done anything remotely related to 3D modeling until four months ago and I don't have a fine arts degree (or MBA), and I don't have years or decades of experience in any industry.
    Lumecluster Nightmare Mask
    All I had/have is the desire to pursue something because I want to. Because I'm hungry to explore something amazing and new.

    And that's when it hit me. I'm not drawing and 3D modeling to seek fame and accolades or whatever. I draw and 3D model because I think it's fucking awesome and I can't get enough of it. My work electrifies me when I'm truly focused on myself (and not comparing myself to others).

    A good friend and mentor once told me (and I'm paraphrasing):

    "Everyone lives in their own movie. Some people spend their whole lives trying to star in someone else's film or role. It's up to you to wake up and decide if you want to star in your own."

    I'm choosing to play my part in my own movie. I have every right to call myself an artist, blogger, entrepreneur. This is my journey.

    I have every right to be here, to pursue what I want in my own way.

    What do you think? I know it's always easier said than done but perhaps these thoughts can help:

    Pay attention to when you're feeling like a fraud or coming under your own fire and acknowledge it.

    Recognize your own successes (journaling about it seriously helps me lots).

    Occasionally reflect on what you've already achieved instead of constantly focusing on what you haven't accomplished.

    When your negative self-talk becomes unmanageable, talk to someone you trust and who can offer more than just showerings of empty praise.

    Your fears and insecurities are your feelings, not necessarily your reality.

    Feeling insecure doesn't make you weak, it makes you human.

    You're not the only one who feels this way.

    You are who you choose to be.

    And if none of the above helps even a little, try this one out:

    "Accept that everyone everywhere—no matter how successful—experiences the self-doubt that underlies impostor syndrome. It is part and parcel of becoming accomplished and successful. There is nothing unusual or wrong about feeling these things. Leave no cognitive space for them to grow, and regain control of your life and your future." — Denise Cummins, Ph.D.


    AND if you're in NYC and love 3D printing, art, tech and fashion, come check out the NYC 3D Printshow, February 12-15.
    Lumecluster 3D Printshow

    Maybe we'll bump into each other :) Here are the details:

    WHERE: Metropolitan Pavilion
    125 West 18th Street New York, NY 10011
    WHEN: February 12-15, 2014. See timetable.
    TICKETSClick here.
    DESCRIPTION: 3D Printshow New York will be our most exciting show to date; a combined business, arts, design, education and consumer event with cutting-edge technology, world exclusive features and some of the sharpest minds in the world of future-tech.

    Our NYC show will include some of the most incredible new content that we’ve found around the globe, combined with incredible new exclusives created specifically for our US audience.

    Your turn. Have you ever suffered from impostor syndrome? What do you think of the new Lumecluster 3D printed art?

    <3 Melissa

    Are you courageous? September 1, 2013 08:00

    Lumecluster finding courage

         "Heroics is important and we certainly need more heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today's world, that's pretty extraordinary." -—Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
    Do you think you're courageous? Brave?

    Yes? No? Sometimes? However you feel about it, one thing is for sure:

    We all wish we could be braver and have more courage to fearlessly pursue our dreams.

    But too often, we fear we "don't have what it takes" to make it all happen.

    We fret, we whine, we have meltdowns. We get all tangled up by the inspiring stories about the amazing geniuses who swoop in to restore floundering companies, the overnight successes who seemingly went from being nobodies to millionaires changing the world, the serial entrepreneurs who gave up their six-figure jobs to pursue their passion and wholehearted living, the rebellious spirits who boldly ruffle a lot of feathers and constantly turn industries on their heads...

    How could we ever compare? How could we ever match that?

    First, courage comes in all shapes and sizes. Second, it's important to remember that you're usually seeing only a part of the story (the happy/exciting parts).

    Lately, I've been really getting into writing reminder lists (I really like lists...). Creating one for courage was really important to me since my confidence has a tendency to plummet whenever the going gets tough. Chances are yours does too. So, I'll start by sharing my list.

    Courage is...

    tackling one problem at a time,

    breaking away from the familiar,

    persevering in the face of uncertainty,

    sharing your fears with the ones you love,

    defining your own freedom and happiness,

    asking questions about what you don't know,

    reaching out for help when you really need it,

    being honest and authentic with yourself and others,

    fearing for the safety of a dream, but pursuing it anyway,

    sharing your creations with the world (or in a blog post ;)

    doing what needs to be done NOW and not setting it aside for later,

    putting in the endless hours of work without expecting immediate rewards,

    accepting that failures happen but never accepting defeat,

    saying "no" to the customers that aren't right for you,

    telling yourself that you've done all that you can today,

    not worrying about making a fool of yourself,

    owning up to your mistakes and taking chances,

    moving forward even when you're completely lost,

    consistently taking action despite the fear.

    taking the unpopular route,

    embracing your quirks,

    thinking differently,

    holding onto hope.

    Your turn. What does courage mean to you?
    "One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest." -—Maya Angelou
    If you've done any of the above, you already have more courage than you think. No matter how new or experienced you are, as a creator, you're looking at fear in the face whenever you deliver on your product, create new content, or build anything of value.

    I don't know about you but I think that takes a lot of guts. Dontcha think?

    <3 Melissa

    Give yourself the freedom to... August 25, 2013 09:00

    Lumecluster_give yourself freedom

    Give yourself the freedom to...

    be a beginner,
    ask for assistance,
    screw up and make mistakes,
    create many shitty first drafts,
    stand up for what you believe in,
    celebrate the big and small successes,
    revisit old ideas with new perspectives,
    embrace the lessons learned from failures,
    cry it out once in a while (no, you're not weak),
    try something new without expecting perfection,
    believe you have the power to make a difference,
    build on your collection of curiosities, interests, and ideas,
    accept that you don't have the answers to everything,
    scrap an idea without feeling ashamed to start over,
    share your work because it has a right to be seen,
    reserve your you time because you deserve it,
    take a day off or book a vacation,
    define your own expectations,
    be yourself without apology,
    challenge conventions,
    dream big.
    When work, business, and life start to feel like it's too much to handle, I like to recall Col. Chris Hadfield's inspiring words:
    “Decide in your heart what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow and the day after that.
    Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in.
    Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
    What do you want to give yourself the freedom to do? Share your thoughts and add to the list of reminders.
    <3 Melissa

    Disempowering the dream crushers in your life. August 18, 2013 08:00

    Lumecluster Dream Crushers

    It's safer not to take any risks.

    You'll only succeed if you have a lot of investors.

    You should wait until you have a better idea that can go viral.

    You don't have enough experience to launch or build a business.

    Wait until you're really ready to share your ideas or else someone will steal it.

    Leave it to the "real professionals" to change the world.

    Try to be more realistic about your dreams.

    Stop dreaming and wake up to reality.

    I just don't think you'll ever get the business off the ground.

    Dream crushers. I bet we all have at least one in our life (not including your own nasty inner critic).

    Maybe it's a family member, loved one or a good friend. Hearing these kinds of comments can be shocking and even crippling to the work you do. But let's be honest...their words say more about their own fears and insecurities than they do about you and your abilities.

    Perhaps it's their own lack of self-confidence or an underlying fear of looking at where they are in their own life. Or maybe they experienced their own failed business(es). Or they may truly believe they're protecting you and just don't know a better way to express their concerns.

    It's not like they want you to fail or mean to intentionally tear you down (unless they're spiteful like that...). Believe it or not, they probably think they're being supportive.

    But most of the time, it's just that they have no idea how it's possible to succeed in what you're doing. And all they can do is offer whatever might be some relevant knowledge or stories/lessons, view you through that lens, and offer their "advice" in the best way that they can.

    But you know what? In the end, you're not really looking for their advice.

    What you're looking for is support, empathy, and understanding, right?

    Chances are you probably need to look elsewhere and seek out those who have been through what you're going through or are pursuing similar goals. Finding appropriate mentors, checking out conferences, and joining online communities can be an amazing remedy against dream crushers.

    So keep dreaming bigger dreams, take action through daily baby steps, meet new and inspiring people, ask questions, research, experiment, and make mistakes. Most importantly, keep launching your ideas out to those who care about the work you (must) do. Because they're the ones that really matter, aren't they?

    Now, get down to business. <3

    What have the dream crushers in your life said to you? What did you do about it?

    P.S. I've been experimenting with some fun, new, creative projects. Can't wait to share the progress! And in case you missed last week's post about rising above the fear of rejection, you can check it out here.

    A life beyond a fear of rejection August 11, 2013 08:00

    Lumecluster beyond rejection
    “We reject ourselves before other people can. Stop.” —Jia Jiang, 100 Days of Rejection

    Fake. Poser. Wannabe. Fraud.

    I bet these are just some of the words you're afraid everyone around you is secretly labeling about you. Words you may even mutter to yourself, leaving you feeling weak, vulnerable, and paralyzed.

    As an entrepreneur, author, blogger, artist, small business owner, etc., you put your self-esteem and self-concept on the line every time you hit "publish" on your next blog post, unveil your first/next product, ask for the sale or try to do anything to reach out to the world.

    When someone rejects you, it hurts emotionally and physically. Rejection inspires all kinds of conflicting and painful emotions, but above all, it totally disconnects your brain from logic and reason.

    You don't just take rejection personally, you take it as a reflection of your unworthiness.

    We've all felt this at some point in our life. Sure, some of us might be able to brush it off. But many of us end up hiding ourselves away and allowing the rejection to drag on our minds for hours, days or years. Even worse, we may steer clear of opportunities to avoid the possibility of experiencing future rejection.

    Yes, it sucks to feel like you're somehow the only one missing the point. Like you're the sole loser who is left behind because you can't seem to figure it all out.

    Deep down inside, we all want approval from friends, family and/or peers. We want to belong to some special group, community, tribe—whatever you want to call it. We want people to love our work, to appreciate everything we do, and to embrace us for who we are.

    But let's be real here. Who are we? Who are you? ...if you're constantly rejecting yourself?

    I grew up living most of my life rejecting myself.

    Because my (then small) world had rejected me.

    Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I was constantly bullied or simply ignored, I didn't know how to deal with racism in school, I hated being born a girl (one of three) because some simple-minded relatives made my mother's life a living hell for not bearing any sons, I had few to no friends, and I became so quiet that people even joked about me being a mute.

    I felt so ashamed to be me.

    According to my peers at the time, everything about me was "wrong." And whenever I tried to stand up for myself, there always seemed to be someone eager to "put me back in my place." So, I stopped trying...until I left for college.

    While my perception of the world started shifting, accepting myself didn't get any easier. First, I needed to learn to like myself.

    In retrospect, I was filled with a lot of frustration, resentment, and wrath (a terrible sin, I know...give me a break).

    In my anger, I was determined not to let anyone tell me who I was anymore. I wanted to finally start standing up for myself. Thankfully, I met a lot of great mentors and friends who helped me see that I could rise beyond my anger. They saw my bad, but they also saw the good in me.

    Deciding to pursue an entrepreneurial life later on also added a new level of exploration. Surprisingly, someone I looked up to confidently told me that PianoVerse would fail and that I would never be able to do anything with my drawings. Of course, they were wrong.

    In the end, experiencing rejection is not proof of your inadequacy. It's proof that you're bold enough to try to be someone: yourself.

    Perhaps you can even view being rejected by the status quo as a rite of passage toward living a more adventurous life of non-conformity. ;) It's important to realize that discovering who you are doesn't just happen overnight. Knowing, loving, and trusting yourself is an open-ended process and thrives on finding new ways to grow.

    Now, I'm not saying you should screw the world and not care about anyone's opinions anymore. What I am saying is to recognize who these opinions are coming from before you give their words too much weight.

    Are they coming from people who truly want to understand you? Who recognize your values and goals? Aim to offer constructive criticism because they want to see your future success?

    For every person who might reject or condemn you, there is someone out there who also believes in you and what you do. So, do them and yourself the honor by putting yourself forward so that you may find each other.

    And go show them what you've got!

    Have you experienced or frequently fear rejection? How do you deal with it?

    <3 Melissa

    (Un)limited Growth August 4, 2013 09:00

    Lumecluster (Un)limited Growth

    "The failure of an artist is not the inability to draw or create, but the resistance to continually learn and do. Every artist, in their own mind, is a work in progress." — Eugenia Leung
    (Substitute "artist" with whatever word you prefer in the quote above)
    Have you ever said some variation of the following?
    I don't have the guts. I can't put myself out there. I wish I was more like X. I'm too old/young to start X. I'm just not naturally talented like so-and-so. Maybe they won't like me or what I have to offer.
    I could never do that.
    I admit I'm guilty of comforting myself with many of these lies. In fact, these thoughts run through my head almost everyday, but I still go on. Not because I'm somehow stronger, but because it's all that I really can and must do, don't you think?
    A year ago, I thought I could never pursue my love for illustration and curiosity for writing.
    Heck, I hadn't drawn for over 6-7 years and my writing was so terrible, I even blushed about it in private!
    I never had any formal art training beyond elementary school, I was bored out of my mind by the art history prerequisite back in my college days, I don't have an MBA, I found writing to be very challenging, I have a questionable grasp on grammar, and I suffered from a pathetically limited vocabulary.
    So, according to everyone who was convinced they knew me better than myself, I was totally "unqualified" to pursue illustration and writing. Do I even need to talk about the looks of (loving) concern? It was like they mentally stamped the words "starving artist" on my forehead and I couldn't erase it from their mind.
    But according to me, I wasn't going to let their uncertainties or their standards lead my life.
    So, what happened? I grabbed a pen and started writing and drawing a lot of shit every day.
    Sadly, not the epic kind, but the stinky kind.
    I'm not going to lie and pretend that I miraculously got better with each passing day. In reality, I had nuggets of good sandwiched in between massive collections of bad. In fact, drawing and (especially) writing still do not come easily to me.
    Even so, I've learned to get comfortable with knowing that nothing worthwhile and meaningful ever comes easily. If it did, everyone would be living their purpose right now. But you and I both know that plenty of folks would much rather spend their days building barriers against risks rather than opening up to uncertain possibilities.
    I'm fine with knowing that I'll always have a long journey ahead of me. No doubt, you have a long way to go as well.
    But it's better than going no where at all.
    Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something before giving yourself a chance? What area in your life are you trying to improve and grow right now?
    And do you want to see some of my old shit? ;D Leave a comment and let me know!

    In New York? Love art, music, theatre? Join me at the WAT Gallery Show :) July 28, 2013 08:00

    Lumecluster WAT Gallery

    Experience a vibrant, provocative, and interactive fusion of theatre, art, music, and photography.
    Okay, so this is a little different from my usual posts but I just had to share the exciting news (don’t worry, you’ll see my regular posts again next week)! If you missed last week’s doodle-blog, Breathing Room (+ Freedom), you can check it out here.
    Working Artists Theatre (WAT) Project has invited me to display a selection of Lumecluster illustrations alongside several other awesome New York based artists in chashama, 210 East 43rd Street in Manhattan.
    Any New Yorkers in the house? Love art, music, theatre and all things thoughtful and creative? If so, I would love to meet you on opening night, August 14th @ 7:00 PM. If you can’t make it, no worries! WAT Gallery will be showing through the month of August! :D
    So, what is the WAT Gallery?
    Working Artists Theatre (WAT) Project proudly presents WAT GALLERY; an immersive theatre environment that will house 10 Artist Exhibitions, music spun by local DJ’s, complimentary beverages, and 2 unique, newly developed shows that will play through the month of August at 210 East 43rd Street.
    WAT has drawn inspiration from famed photographer Diane Arbus and the places we have never been, to playwright Eugene O’Neill and American Horror Story, in order to conjure up some really amazing experiences for you.
    Visit the WAT Art Gallery. I'll be there opening night, August 14th!
    Where: 210 East 43rd Street
    When: August 9 – 11 (previews), August 14 (opening night!) – 30
    Wednesdays – Saturdays @ 7:00 – 8:00 PM
    Sundays @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM
    IMPORTANT: Double Feature Benefit Performance on August 19th only – showing Fruits Unheard Of + THE BIG SHOW back-to-back, gallery opens at 5:00 PM (more details below)
    Tickets: $10 at the door for the gallery ONLY
    Overview: An exciting fusion of current Broadway talent and accomplished visual artists will be presented by Working Artists Theatre Project in the gallery space at 210 East 43rd Street this August. In collaboration with chashama, WAT Project will present two unique immersive theatrical productions (details below) staged in an art gallery exploring the lives and works of Diane Arbus, Eugene O’Neill, and Francis Farmer while featuring a collection of work by New York artists.
    Experience the U.S. Premiere of Fruits Unheard Of.
    Where: 210 East 43rd Street
    When: August 9 – 11 (previews), August 14 (opening night!) – 30
    Wednesdays – Saturdays @ 8:00 PM
    Sundays @ 3:00 PM
    Run time: 70 minutes
    IMPORTANT: Double Feature Benefit Performance on August 19th only – showing Fruits Unheard Of + THE BIG SHOW back-to-back starting at 7:00 PM (more details below)
    Tickets: $40 GET TICKETS HERE
    Covers complimentary beverages, gallery experience, and admission to Fruits Unheard Of.
    Overview: The U.S. Premiere of Fruits Unheard Of by Caitlin Murphy, will be creatively staged in an art gallery curated with works from a variety of New York based artists. This award-winning biographical play about American photographer Diane Arbus offers a non-linear, impressionistic approach to Arbus as a dramatic subject and features only two actors: one as Diane, and one as every other personality in her life including family members, teachers, contemporaries, and her photographic subjects themselves. A selection of photographs inspired by the play and using the cast of Fruits Unheard Of as subjects will be displayed within the gallery to create the set of the play.
    Again, the art gallery (review information above) will be open to audiences one hour prior to show-time with music spun by local DJ’s and complimentary beverages included in the $40 ticket price.
    By: Caitlin Murphy
    Directed By: Jessica Dermody & Sharone Halevy
    Starring: Lil Malinich & Martin Markaj
    Featuring Commissioned Photography By: Courtney Lindberg, Dominique Paul, & Dana Serling
    Or watch THE BIG SHOW.
    Where: 210 East 43rd Street
    When: August 18 – 26
    Sundays @ 7:30 PM
    Mondays @ 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM
    Run time: 40 minutes
    Tickets: $18 GET TICKETS HERE
    IMPORTANT: Double Feature Benefit Performance on August 19th only – showing Fruits Unheard of + THE BIG SHOW back-to-back starting at 7:00 PM
    Covers complimentary beverages, gallery admission, and admission to Fruits Unheard Of and THE BIG SHOW which will play back-to-back for $50. The gallery will open at 5:00 PM that evening.
    Overview: THE BIG SHOW is an immersive re-imagination of the Eugene O’Neill play THIRST told through the life story of Francis Farmer. Audiences will be transported to 1950 where they will experience an evening in the rec room at Sunnyland: a hospital for the mentally insane. Inventively choreographed by Charlie Sutton (Kinky Boots, WICKED) this eerie, imaginative, new piece features dancing and star cast members from the Broadway community.
    Directed & Choreographed By: Charlie Sutton
    Starring: Rachelle Rak and a cast of Broadway dancers

    Breathing Room (+ Freedom) July 21, 2013 08:00


    I bet you don't give yourself much of it, do you?
    Now, I don't just mean giving yourself room to move and breathe comfortably, although that's just as important. When I talk about breathing room, I mean being self-compassionate and being able to forgive yourself so that you can move forward.
    Let's be honest now. Giving ourselves room to breathe is just another one of those things we often say we'll do, but flounder with when it comes to actually doing being more patient, practicing gratitude, remembering the daily joys in life, taking real breaks, and not thinking about work every waking moment.
    But when you're caught struggling, making mistakes, feeling lost, battling with insecurity or stumbling into failure, your ideas (hopes, dreams) can feel like they're closing in on you. Overwhelming you. And to make matters worse, let me guess...
    You punish yourself.
    You call yourself out on all your perceived flaws, feel guilty about stepping away from work, worry about what other people think/say about you, and blame yourself for not being stronger. Maybe you've even expressed some variation of the following:
    Idiot. What's the point? No one will ever take you seriously. You're a useless nobody!
    The chaos of your own self-deprecating thoughts can feel like they're swirling uncontrollably around you. Honestly, sometimes I wish there was just an "off" switch to simply shut them down. Although such an option doesn't exist, there is another way...
    Listen and (re)discover the good within yourself...because it's there.
    You just need to give yourself the chance to plant the seeds.
    Yes, it's always tougher to remember your best self, but you deserve better and so does the work you have to offer to the world. Deep down, the seeds of self-compassion are fighting for the space to grow. Give them the freedom to take root by asking yourself:
    What accomplishments have I made in the past or today? What can others always count on me for?
    No matter how big or small, take a few minutes to write them down, now. Please? ;) If you're not sure or if your mind is feeling too cluttered by your own thoughts, then ask someone else who knows you well.
    And if you catch yourself getting caught up in the tangles of your own negativity and personal takedowns again, pause, take a breath, ask yourself these questions again and repeat.
    I know it's not easy. After all, most of us aren't masters at being our own cheerleaders, but in the end we have to be.
    What does your inner critic like to say to you and how do you like to handle it?

    Rumination July 14, 2013 09:00

     Lumecluster Rumination

    “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein

    Do you ever find yourself captivated by your own thoughts?
    On the good days, ideas can feel like they're just pouring out of you, right? Your heart's racing, mind is rapidly firing one seemingly genius thought after the other, the flow is just exhilarating until...
    The high suddenly disappears.
    Maybe yours doesn't fall apart as quickly. Perhaps yours deteriorates at a painfully slow pace—the type that loves to give you false hope only to suddenly shrivel up into a pile of frustrating thoughts.
    Before, the focus felt so wonderfully effortless and you'd do whatever it takes to reclaim that high—that flow. But you can't.
    In fact, the harder you try, the greater your mental battle likely becomes. Every idea just looks stale, jumbled, and all around bad.
    Before you know it, those nasty little thoughts start suffocating you and your mind begins to ruminate on all your supposed inadequacies and failures. Call it whatever you like—your inner critic, little demon, or (as I call it in Lumecluster) Nightmare—these bad boys are masters of capturing your attention.
    Leading you into a potentially paralyzing and all-consuming downward mental spiral.
    Sure, on the decent days you can sometimes withstand your own blows and focus your attention where it really matters. But during your low(est) moments, your mind becomes creatively cruel at tearing your self-esteem and self-compassion to shreds.
    When these moments hit, I've learned that the best thing is to take a break and do something totally unrelated to what I normally do.
    To break the negativity cycle.
    Okay, I know this sounds like "duh" generic advice. And, yeah, I guess it kind of is, but it doesn't make it any less important. And if you're a little like me (a perfectionist and slightly OCD), you know that doing this is not easy.
    You forget, I forget, we all listen to our voice of reason when we fall under (our own) pressure.
    Rather than just taking that break (the smart thing to do...), I tend to pressure myself to just try for another hour and another and another...until the day is gone. Even if it does "work," I know that I've mentally bent myself out of shape and probably won't perform my best when it comes to taking the next step.
    So, why not just take the break? Because I become consumed by guilt and anxiety when I try to bring my attention away from the thing that I still haven't "fixed."
    At the same time, I realize that I'm no good to my unfixed problem while in my current state.
    Recently, I've been training myself to take real breaks (and my own advice) again by putting post-it notes on my laptop, desk, notebook (basically, every place I'm usually at) that say, "Pissed off? Do something else NOW or you'll regret it."
    I need reminders because I'm too easily consumed by my own negative thoughts. But I figured you don't want to use a note that sounds so threatening, so I made this illustration instead.
    For me, this image will remind me to take some time to engage in the other things I love and bring me joy, like reading, doodling, playing piano, playing video games, enjoying a long walk outdoors (rain or shine), taking some photos, etc. It'll also remind me to engage in the new and different.
    I'm not trying to escape my difficulties. I aim to refresh, recharge, and reclaim a sense of calm.
    And remind myself that, although the negative thoughts can feel like a whirlwind of craziness inside my head, they're only thoughts and not a definition of who I am.

    Uncertainty Bubbles July 7, 2013 08:00

    Lumecluster uncertainty bubbles

    When you’re getting into or doing something new, different, or scary, there’s no doubt that the uncertainty can feel uncomfortable…maybe even unbearable.
    Uncertainty can turn everything you thought you knew completely upside down and make you doubt your every thought and move. Hang around with uncertainty too long and you might never take action. It’s often partnered with those nerve wracking question you’re all too familiar with:
    “Did I make the right choice? Should I do this? Should I have done things differently?”
    At the same time, uncertainty can sometimes bubble up new questions, insights, ideas, and perspectives. Looking back, I know it has for me, although I didn't think so at the time. For instance...
    Considering a Lumecluster website redesign after only just launching in February riddled me with anxious uncertainty.
    At first, I thought it was just my perfectionist tendencies kicking in again. I know I usually over analyze, second guess, and pretty much waste an unnecessary amount of mental energy only to come back to my same old, original conclusions.
    Only this time, I didn't.
    In fact, no matter how many ways I went about it, I just felt like Lumecluster was wearing all the wrong clothes. Clothes that I put on only because it's what I saw so many of my peers wearing. Clothes I figured I could just get used to.
    But it nagged at me because I knew it didn't highlight my best—my illustrations.
    I let this drag on for a good (awful) three months. This probably sounds silly, but I felt strangely lost and angry with my website. I didn't even want to look at it.
    I didn't even want to draw.
    Losing touch with my love for drawing was a stab to the heart I couldn’t bear. Thankfully, this unsettling thought was just enough to get me moving again and really clear my mental clutter.

    Now that Lumecluster is looking like a happier place, you've got a much happier Melissa...and hopefully better art.

    Sometimes getting a little lost is the best way to... March 4, 2013 19:30

    Lumecluster Getting Lost

    Sometimes getting a little lost is the best way to...

    ...find your true self. new paths you would have otherwise missed if you stayed in one direction.

    ...stumble onto new ideas you would never have imagined.

    ...reignite your creative spark.

    ...realize that you're meant to do something else, something bigger, something more.

    ...recognize what you really love or hate.

    ...understand what you're truly capable of.

    ...face your deepest fears and insecurities.

    Sure, getting lost can leave you feeling scared, sad, frustrated, confused, angry, and a countless number of other emotions that will make you feel like you've somehow failed in your journey.

    But it can also be an eye-opening experience if you let it.

    And if you do, your adventure will be much more exciting because of it. After all, amazing adventures don't come to life by fleeing from what makes you afraid and uncomfortable.

    They come to life when you choose to always stand up for yourself and what you believe in even when all seems lost.

    And because you choose to carry on as the unrelenting hero, not the victim, of your own story.

    Great treasures are never found in a rush. February 26, 2013 16:00

    Lumecluster Treasure

    Maybe you think your treasure is achieving absolute clarity in purpose or finally realizing everything you've ever envisioned for your business, writing, art, etc.

    Whatever it is, you'd like to have it all. Now.

    Who doesn't? I mean, you're probably pretty tired and often frustrated with the seemingly endless work, sleepless nights, and constant fear of an uncertain future.

    When you're stressed, sometimes you can't help but wish for everything (that you want in the moment) to just magically fall into your lap.

    Sounds like it would be a dream come true...but it would really be unfortunate.

    Because then you'd miss out on meeting all the people who might change your life and inspire you to scale to greater heights.

    You'd miss out on feeling the mind-blowing revelations that happen whenever everything you think you know is turned upside down or put into a new perspective.

    And in the face of overwhelming self-doubt, you'd miss out on the unexpected ways you'd surprise yourself with the strength and courage you never thought you had in you.

    The list goes on and on. But the point is, you'd be giving up your greatest treasure:

    Experiencing the joys and pains of life.

    The treasure isn't just getting your hands on some end goal. It's the never ending journey full of endless encounters, limitless experiences, and priceless moments that build your character, potential, and future.

    I don't know about you, but I know I'm in no rush to trade off my opportunities to experience life for some wish that might only satisfy my moment's frustrations.

    ...and Lumecluster is finally live! Yay!

    How to believe in yourself in the face of overwhelming self-doubt. January 9, 2013 13:00

    Lumecluster Self Doubt
    You know what that voice in your head says…

    You can’t do it. You’ll never be good enough. You’re going to fail.

    This voice taunts you whenever you set a goal. It criticizes you when life gets difficult. It beats you down when you struggle to stand up against its running commentary.

    You know you shouldn’t let self-doubt bother you, but it’s a sneaky critter. Sometimes, you just can’t contain it and it slips past your barriers.

    And self-doubt is greedy. When it’s loose, it devours your confidence, strips logic and reason from your mind, and steals happiness from your heart. In return, it leaves you with only fear and insecurity.

    You try to remove self-doubt by forcing yourself to “think positive,” which usually doesn’t work as well as you think it should.

    The more you fight your self-doubt, the more it fights back. However, with self-knowledge and understanding, you can use self-doubt for your benefit.

    Read the whole guest post on Tiny Buddha...

    Happy holidays, resolutions, and perfectionism December 17, 2012 20:00

    Lumecluster Tendrils

    It's the holiday season and the New Year is right around the corner. It's a time full of parties, gift-giving, and family gatherings.

    It's also a time for reflection and resolutions. I'll start off by sharing mine:

    My New Year's resolution is to not give into perfectionism and accept that what I've done so far in my life is good enough. (However, who I will be in the year to come is yet to be seen.)

    I know I'm not the only one who struggles with perfectionism and never feeling good enough...unless you're a narcissist. Our hopes, dreams, and fragile egos are constantly on the defensive against doubt, fear, and self-pity. But it's a battle you know you cannot surrender to.

    Because believing you're good enough is vital not only for your well-being and confidence, but also for your ability to see yourself beyond your shortcomings. To believe that you're more capable than you realize and that're not so bad after all.

    While self-improvement is a rewarding and never-ending journey, so is accepting and loving ourselves along with all our imperfections.

    Don't wait until you're "ready enough" or for that "perfect day" to finally show the world what you've got. Today is as good as any other day.

    Lumecluster will be coming to you in the New Year!

    Speaking of sharing your work with the world, Lumecluster will be going live by the New Year. And if it doesn't, feel free to scold me for being terribly negligent. Phew, I have a lot of drawing to look forward to before the year is out :)

    I've shared my New Year's resolution. What's yours? I'd love to know.

    Happy holidays,

    5 Ways an Introvert Can Build a Thriving Online Audience November 28, 2012 19:00

    Lumecluster Solitude

    Lumecluster is coming soon. Meanwhile, check out my guest post featured on Copyblogger.

    Do you often find yourself intensely focused on the things that interest you? Do you enjoy solitude and quiet?

    Do you prefer deep conversations over loud parties? Do crowds drain you? Does alone time energize you?

    If so, chances are you’re an introvert.

    Either you’re giving a knowing nod or you’re confused because you thought introversion meant you were merely shy.

    And maybe you’ve despaired that introversion and “shyness” have held you back from achieving your business goals online?

    Introverts can be shy…but so can extroverts.

    Likewise, introverts can also be confident, social, and inspirational in their own right...

    Read the whole article on Copyblogger