This weekend: Chicago Art Girls Holiday Pop-Up!

The Artist

Melissa Banks was born in Lake Villa, IL in 1973, and, although there were artists in her family, her path was mostly an academic one. She began attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1991, majoring in computer science in the engineering program. After a year and a half, she discovered she was not happy, decided to follow her passion for creating jewelry, and diverted her path to the Crafts/Metals program.

It was during her studies in Metals that Melissa discovered her love for chainmaille. She studied the origins and historical applications of maille as the medieval knights had worn for protection under their armor, and was drawn to the idea of transferring its purpose for the application of adornment and jewelry design. She taught herself how to link together the basic chainmaille pattern and used the technique as the basis for her senior thesis project. It started making sense that her initial path in engineering had transformed itself to a path in the arts with a focus on the precise and mathematical construction of a metal fabric patiently built link by link.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Crafts/Metals in 1996, Melissa began working in Chicago at the studio of a local jewelry designer. While also bartending in the evenings, Melissa began creating her own designs with the goal of someday starting her own business. After the opportunity came along to show her work at a holiday art show, she became hooked on the art fair circuit.

Since that first show in December of 1999, Melissa has been exhibiting her jewelry at juried art fairs around the Midwest. In 2008, she officially quit her part-time waitressing job and became a full time artist. In the fall of 2010, she moved Rapt in Maille out of her home and into its first real studio space in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. Melissa continues challenging herself to invent new ways to incorporate chainmaille into beautiful, classic jewelry that anyone can enjoy.

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