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Redlands with Melissa Sonico

STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN –FOLLOW Melissa – PHOTOS BY Karen Hernandez FOR THE STYLE LINE

“Art and creativity are a reflection of society and humanity;” says LA-based

jewelry designer, style blogger, and professional writer Melissa Sonico, “it’s inherently political, so make an impact with it. I feel like this is already in effect with small businesses and our generation of creatives.” Blending storytelling, style and innate curiosity, Melissa Sonico’s creative acumen is something that gives us hope when it comes to leaving a positive imprint in the world, simply by doing what we love. Speaking more to that idea, one could say that Melissa left an imprint on us during our recent afternoon together, as she kindly took us on tour around some of her favorite local destinations throughout the Greater Los Angeles area.

While based in California, Melissa’s efforts have not gone unnoticed as evidenced in her growing global online following and discerning eye for design. The style maven’s work is truly special as Melissa has become known for championing independent brands and businesses – not to mention that she’s also fostered her own eponymous jewelry brand. With all of that in mind, we were thrilled to join Melissa in her neighborhood where she shared more of her thoughts on writing’s important role in this day and age, building community and the LA style scene. Discover more below featuring exclusive photos from our visit captured by Karen Hernandez for The Style Line.

“LA is a big city, but I feel like we’re all connected somehow and we’re inspired by the same things…”

*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MARCH 2017 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT AND INTRODUCTION

My name is Melissa, and

I’m a short fiction writer and writing professor. I also blog and design jewelry in Southern California where I live with my husband Johnny and our son Harrison. A lot of what I enjoy doing outside of my profession has to do with the work I do in that I love to read and write, as well as spend my time on creative endeavors– music is a big part of my life; I used to write for music publications and cover new music and shows, and we try to build on our vinyl collection at various record and thrift shops. Another thing I enjoy is reading and collecting books. I also try to instill that love of books and creativity in Harrison. We’ll go to the bookstore downtown or to museums. He came with us to Modernism Week in Palm Springs last week and really seemed to enjoy taking in the culture and art. 

Talk to us about your relationship to writing. How has living in Southern California creatively energized you both personally and professionally?

I’ve had a background in writing apparently since third grade. I was recently looking through old photos and school awards and things at my parents’ house and came across my third-grade report card. On the comments, it read something like “Melissa enjoys writing and has expressed interest in playwriting.” I remember helping to write a script for Peter Pan and we sewed together hand puppets and I got to be Wendy. I went on to be an editor for my high school newspaper and at UC Irvine (after a segue into Biology) I studied literary journalism– which is when I discovered Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem– and then received my BA from Cal State in English with an emphasis in creative writing, and finally an MFA in fiction. 

I write short stories and creative nonfiction in the same vein as my literary idols including Didion, especially since she’s a Los Angeles writer. I think it’s a pretty creatively fertile environment, both for story writing and life in general. We have the city and the suburbs, the mountains and the valley, the desert and the beach all sort of blending into each other. In the same way, there are people from all walks of life intermingled– all you have to do is step outside to be inspired.

What has been the most unexpected reward of pursuing your creative passions in a city like LA?

Mmm… good question. This is a tough one for me to answer, but I think it’s the relationships that were created over the past few years since venturing into jewelry design and my other creative outlets. It can seem like a cold, competitive place out there but I’m constantly and pleasantly surprised by the positive, nurturing environment I’ve been lucky to become a part of.

[CLICK EACH THUMBNAIL IN THESE GALLERIES TO EXPAND IMAGE]

Siam Dish

Address: 656 E Redlands Blvd, Redlands, CA 92373

Siam Dish is where my husband Johnny and I had our second date 8 years ago (almost to the day that this article is being published) and we still come back to it. We’ve watched the owner’s daughters grow up working there. Best yellow curry and pad see ew!

Shop Melissa’s Look: First Rite dress, Melissa Sonico necklace $48, Are Studio disco bag $168 and ZARA shoes

With the uncertain and rocky political climate, in your opinion why do you believe it is important to immerse yourself in your local culture and community? 

Writing and all art and culture speaks to the heart of the human condition. In tense political times like these, it’s vitally important – now more than ever – to put our noses to the grindstones and remind everyone what it is to be human, to have compassion and empathy, and to practice, as George Saunders put it, “radical tenderness”. We, as artists, must go to work to accomplish this.

Red Door Vintage

Address: 34940 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa, CA 92399

I’ve shopped at Red Door Vintage ever since the owner Alison had a booth at the Antique Galleria downtown and then moved to the neighboring town. I was super excited when she found her own space in Redlands– it used to be an old vintage and record shop I used to frequent over ten years ago, so it’s nice that it’s a thrift store again. She’s got the best selection at super affordable prices.”

Shop Melissa’s Look: J.Crew top $120, Levi’s Vintage 501s (Similar, $49.95) vintage beret and ZARA shoes

Talk to us about the LA small business community. What do you love most about the local flavor here and how do you think the city supports small businesses and creatives in general?

Like I said earlier, I love that everyone is so nurturing and inspiring. I’ve met and collaborated with so many LA designers and independent shops and businesses and many of them have become lasting connections and friends, even. LA is a big city, but I feel like we’re all connected somehow and we’re inspired by the same things, so collaborating always seems to be an easy fit.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

Ah, another tough one. Maybe what I wish I did if I didn’t have the profession I do now? I’ve always had a love for singing and acting– I was always in the school plays, and I sang and did sketches in college. I’m really shy and awkward, but if I’m playing a role, it’s a different story. I’m much more confident playing someone else.

Three Sisters Farm

Address: 30370 San Timoteo Canyon Rd, Redlands, CA 92373

This fruit stand is located in the middle of the orange groves Redlands is famous for. There are hundreds of orange trees all over town, and it makes the whole city fragrant with its blossoms. I’d make the drive past this particular stand on San Timoteo on my way to work teaching in Moreno Valley.”

Shop Melissa’s Look: First Rite dress, Melissa Sonico necklace $48, Are Studio disco bag $168 and ZARA shoes

How would you advise the next generation of writers, style mavens, and creatives to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love?

As simple and vague as it sounds, my advice would be to be yourself. It’s easy to lose oneself and one’s vision in the sea of style bloggers and artists and creatives by trying to fit into a certain mold. Take those things you love and spin it into your own. People will vibe on that genuine, earnestness– and, added bonus, you don’t have to try hard at being yourself, right? Oh, and use that earnestness for a cause. Art and creativity are a reflection of society and humanity; it’s inherently political, so make an impact with it. I feel like this is already in effect with small businesses and our generation of creatives.