So, what is it that you do Melanie?

Put simply, I am a paper installation artist. Through 22 Folds, I create gift pieces using the traditional symbolism of origami cranes and drawing on my own personal story. Since learning at age eight, I have folded countless cranes, and I always believed they held a special kind of magic, an ability to grant wishes. My desires changed as I grew, initially I would fold when I wished for the latest toy, but soon my folding was focused on loftier wishes: for my Mum, fighting cancer; for my best friend as she began her married life, or even for myself, as I began my journey in to parenthood.

” I always believed they held a special kind o f magic “

What I realise now is that the folding of cranes was a kind of therapy for me; a visual representation of my unspoken fears and dreams. But nothing is ever really that simple, is it? Like the proverbial ice burg, there is so much more behind what motivates me than I let people see. This hidden part is meaty and it’s raw and it’s scary, but it’s who I am, and I’m finally ready to share it with you.

This is where my story really starts. I grew up in a small country town in the West Australian Wheatbelt. I was a straight A student, playing nationals basketball and professionally modelling by the time I was 17. Once I graduated, I took a break from study to teach at a modelling school, and before the end of that year I had bought my first franchise. By the time I was twenty, I was running the company with seventeen franchises around the state and 3000 students in classes every week. Although I loved it and was grateful to have been given the opportunity, it was someone else’s dream and ultimately, I walked away. This decision left me with an extremely large debt, I hit bottom fairly quickly and I didn’ t deal with it the best way. I began to self-medicate, was inauthentic with people and had my head in the sand.

” I was lacking self-belief and direction, and with no clarity I was attracting the wrong people

I found myself in a relationship with a very violent man who was constantly under the influence of drugs. There was daily conflict and I was physically abused throughout the relationship. Though I tried to leave many times, I would always go back. I’d lost myself, my self-worth and my ability to make effective decisions for my life. Before long, I was pregnant. I was 28 and my future was grim? not that you could tell from the outside; I told people I loved him, said I was excited when on the inside I was terrified. It was a tumultuous pregnancy and although the first few months of my new baby? s life were bearable, nothing changed permanently and things went back to the way they were – except now I had a purpose. I looked inside, found strength and I finally left – under police protection with a 5-month-old baby and I never looked back.

…”now I had a purpose. I looked inside, found strength and I finally left”

This was the weakest I had ever been in my life. I was at rock bottom, yet something inside me told me I had to deal with this situation very differently. I had a second chance. That was the moment I decided I wasn’t going to define myself as bankrupt, or a failed business woman, a drug user, a domestic violence victim or a single mother. This was my chance to redefine myself.

I was lucky enough to have a great network of friends and brilliant family support, but they weren’t going to do it for me. I had to find something within and draw on the determination and courage I knew I had, that had seen me get the grades, make the team, run the business.

I designed a life that I wanted to live and promised myself that I would never allow anyone to make me feel less than who I knew I was. I was prepared to lose, but not prepared to compromise. This was the promise I made to myself and my little girl.

“……and promised myself that I would never allow anyone to make
me feel less than who I knew I was”

That was 11.5 years ago.

And so here I am, doing what I love for a living. I am now married to an extraordinary man and together we have had two more wonderful children. And that little baby I told you about earlier? She is now 12 years old and running her own business, helping kids by selling affirmation cards and gratitude journals.

While previously the 22 Folds genesis story told only of my Mum? s cancer battle and the role these seemingly magical cranes had in granting wishes for the lucky, I can now tell you, while not untrue, this is not the only truth. Here? s the kicker – The cranes didn’t cure Mum? s cancer. They didn? t grant my bestie the wonderful marriage she has and they didn? t ? fix? me, either. What they do is remind us of our strength. They remind us of the endless possibilities in this world and they remind us to follow our hearts and chase our dreams.

When you receive a 22 Folds piece, I want you to be reminded of these things too. I want you to be sparked, inspired, and moved to take that step. I want you to know that it? s okay to make mistakes and move forward and recreate yourself, no matter what hand you’ve been dealt or what you?

” I want you to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and move forward and recreate yourself, no matter what hand you’ve been dealt or what you’ve experienced in your life .”

I believe in you, I acknowledge you have the power to do whatever you want, and if you find the courage take action I know you will get there.