I know a lot of creative women, but most of them use their creativity as a hobby or are just starting out in the world. So, when I think of the people I know who are creative and successful, Melissa Wartenberg is the first to come to mind.
Wartenberg is a fulltime, professional Steampunk artisan in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She specializes in a unique style with heavy Victorian influence that couples with items like gears and leather to make goggles, vests and utility belts. She’s been an artisan for seven years, but didn’t pursue it professionally until three years ago.
Wartenberg started AtticRaiders as therapy. After an accident four years ago, she was left with one good hand, one good leg and the permanent use of a cane. She was left unsatisfied with the job options available and decided to do something about it. Prompted by family and friends, she started AtticRaiders and began selling her Steampunk pieces. She chose Steampunk as a way to narrow her focus.
“AtticRaiders is the accumulation of dreams and wheels brought together to create the story of an imaginary world that runs on steam,” Wartenberg says. “It’s a way to explore new concepts in fashion because it’s fun, flexible, forgiving and looks into another aspect of our self-identity. Steampunk allowed me to combine my love of gears and clockwork pieces with my desire to create.”
Most of the items you see in shop are of Wartenberg’s own design, but she does take customer requests. She says she doesn’t find requests limiting since they’re often based on previous works she’s done. Her biggest difficulty is working around her handicap, but she makes sure she has plenty of different methods to work around it.
Wartenberg’s persistence and dedication have opened up a lot doors for her and AtticRaiders. Her work has won awards and been highlighted in major Canadian magazines, local newspapers and prominent blogs. And she’s recently made glasses for the series Lost Girl.
But for Wartenberg, the biggest measure of her success is getting to share her story and inspire others. “Being a handicapped artisan means there is nothing more heart-warming than a stranger saying that your story has stirred them to hope,” she says. She considers these people her biggest accomplishment.
In addition to running her own business and going to conventions, she’s also the founder of the Edmonton Steampunk Group. If you’re into the aesthetic that is Steampunk, it’s a great place to network with artists or just chat with interesting characters. And don’t be afraid of Wartenberg either. She’s one of the friendliest and most approachable people you’ll ever meet. She’ll even give you free advice.
“I want to change the stigma that an artist can’t make a living pursuing his or her passion full time,” she says. “It’s important to be creative, but you have to balance creativity out with logic. You have to combine creativity with logical business practices if you want your work to bear fiscal fruit.”
Wartenberg wishes she was as knowledgeable when she had started out. “Do your research. Read as many business articles as possible every day, even once you’ve achieved success.
She goes on to add that it’s important to know your equipment and what it can do for you. This means learning your cameras capabilities, knowing how to use a variety of computer programs and knowing how to clean and maintain your power tools etc.
Finally, she adds: “Network with other artists. Look for the people who will be happy for you when you’re successful. Look for those who you admire, appreciate and will give you honest feedback. By networking and making friends with other artists, you have the chance to learn and improve together.”
Visit Melissa Wartenburg’s etsy here.