Melissa Madara wears many hats, or shall we say crowns, in her life. She’s a full-time Witch and co-owner of the occult bookstore and event space Catland Books in Brooklyn. She’s also a burlesque performer, former chef, and current mastermind behind the gorgeous new Etsy shop St. Hedwig Atelier.
The flower crowns of St. Hedwig aren’t like anything you’ll find at Coachella or in a Lana Del Rey music video; they seem better suited for stained glass windows and medieval cathedrals. As diverse and varied as their creator, we decided to sit down and chat with Melissa about her saintly works of art.
Why did you start making flower crowns?
I started making crowns as part of my work as a burlesque performer. I perform under the name Saint Jayne, and catholic iconography is a huge part of what I do. It’s less about Madonna/whore complexes and more about evoking the sacred in the mundane for me. I firmly believe everyone should be wearing a halo.
What goes into the construction of one of your crowns? Is it a lengthy process to make a flower crown?
The crowns are a bit of an elaborate construction, and each piece takes about three hours start to finish. But I’m sort of a hot glue wizard, so it’s in my wheelhouse.
I love how unique all your crowns are! What inspires you when you make one?
When I first started making crowns, I pitched a super-low price to my friends and asked them to commission completely custom pieces. I wanted to really challenge myself creatively, and it was a very inspirational process. It really helped me to find my voice as an artist. Now, I’d say I’m most inspired by 1700-1800 French fashion, 1600s Catholic artworks, and the woods outside my house. I take a lot of trips to the Met and a lot of long walks in the wilderness.
Where does the name “St. Hedwig Atelier” come from? Is St. Hedwig a favorite Saint of yours?
St. Hedwig was a royal Saint-a Bavarian Duchess. No stranger to crowns, I’m sure. While her life and lore are largely unremarkable, she’s the daughter of the Duke of Croatia, my ancestral homeland.
I know that you got your start as a pastry chef, and you’re also a witch. Do those aspects of your life affect your art?
My work as a pastry chef and as a witch definitely influences my work as an artist. Pastry taught me that the magic is in the details. Witchcraft taught me to infuse meaning in everything I do. Each piece I make is imbued with deliberate intentionality, and meant to evoke a mood or a dream or a passion of mine.
You’ve experienced a lot of success in a short amount of time. What’s that been like? Has it been hard to keep up with the demand?
It’s been a bit tough to stay on top of my work- the boom has been surprising and wonderful. The crowns are already being worn by well-known burlesque artists and being featured on the covers of magazines. I’m working on restructuring my schedule to give me more time to devote to St. Hedwig- and for me, it really is a devotional work.
Do you plan on branching out and making other kinds of jewelry or accessories?
I’ve started working on other hairpieces- fascinators and clips, mostly. My artistic voice is very loud and gregarious, so I’ve been trying to find ways to balance fantasy and practicality in those pieces. I have a hard time dialing back when working on smaller items. But the artistic voice is an ever-evolving thing, so who knows where it will lead next.
Featured image courtesy of St. Hedwig Atelier.