By Lindsay Mower – Staff Reporter
When Farmington native and Biology Major Hailey Mealey isn’t outside collecting bugs for the entomology course she’s enrolled in this semester, she will most likely be found crafting works of art for Hailey Jane Creations, the grassroots art business she started up last fall.
Creating art has been a consistent outlet for expression for Mealey, though she became increasingly inspired to turn her passion into a way to sustain herself financially through the persuasion of her family, who encouraged her that people would most definitely be interested in buying her artwork. “I’ve always made art because it’s just something I super love,” said Mealey.
Mealey says she always thought that no one would be interested in her artwork. “My family would always try to convince me to sell my work, and I would be like, guys, no one wants to buy an eight-foot painting of an eyeball turning into a lizard,” she laughed, adding, “I don’t know a lot of people in the market for that.”
Having her high school art teacher at Mount Blue High School, Roger Bisaillon, as a mentor also played a pivotal role early on in encouraging Mealey that she had a gift that had potential. Bisaillon, who recently retired, and his wife are both successful local artists in Farmington. “I was really lucky to have him in class,” said Mealey. “He really guided me through that period of development and was always so supportive: he still is.”
After graduating from Mount Blue High School in 2014, Mealey studied Art Education at the University of Maine at Orono for a year before deciding to transfer back to her hometown university to pursue her passion for Biology. “Sometimes I get a little hometown-angsty being back in the area, but the Biology program is so great here and all the professors and students are so nice. There is a different atmosphere returning than having grown up here,” said Mealey.
Though she is now studying Biology, Mealey hasn’t given up making art, she has even found a way to effortlessly combine her pair of passions. “I realized that what I was learning at Orono wasn’t what I loved about art… I love Biology. It’s just such a wide field, I can do so many things with it, and it’s inspired a lot of my artwork too.” Mealey smiles as she describes the bug series she has been working on, influenced by her love for the outdoors and the entomology class she is currently taking.
The idea to create her own business sprung to life around the time she left her job, according to Mealey. “I wanted to be able to focus on school, while still doing the things I enjoy, and I was just in a really unhappy place,” she said.
For Christmas Mealey painted some watercolor portraits of her and her siblings for her Grandparents and uploaded them to Facebook to demonstrate a custom gift she could make for someone else as a means to make some money. To her surprise, the post caught attention immediately. She began to successfully sell some of her work on Etsy, and has since launched her own website at haileyjaneco.com.
Along with Mealey’s zany creations like eyeballs morphing into lizards, her creations take on many different themes. Facebook users may have stumbled across her popular watercolor designs in their newsfeed, like her rainbow painting of Bernie Sanders that she posted last year around the election, or her Maine-centric art. One of her more recent works features an outline of the state of Maine featuring a watercolor painting of ‘It’ from the Stephen King movie released earlier this fall painted inside.
As the holiday season approaches, Mealey has been balancing her class work with fulfilling custom orders. Although she will be busy for the next few weeks, she will be accepting orders again very soon. She can be contacted on her Facebook page under Hailey Jane Creations.
As Hailey’s grandmother, I would like to note that Hailey has always been creative … when she would come visit as a 6-year-old, I would have a craft event planned; however, rather than what I was planning, she would just pick up all the pieces and do an amazing, original piece … I was in awe, and wished I had such freedom to create like that, especially at 6!! Obviously, she has continued in this vein … one amazing young woman.