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Time and time again, Matrix Artistic Director Michelle O'Connor sparks inspiration with her work. The fluid movements of her silhouettes, the detail in texture and the overall vibe you get from her creations speaks straight to the heart of fellow artists. When you look at her creations you almost can't believe they are real and you just want to reach out and touch them! This year, she is a finalist nominated in 4 distinct categories for the 2019 NAHA awards in Long Beach: Avant-Garde, Editorial, Texture, and Team - a collection she created with Matrix Artistic Director Dilek Onur Taylor. Keep reading to get to know more about Michelle as an artist and see the truly inspirational works of art she has created!  


What was the inspiration behind each collection?

I have always been a lover of classic hairdressing, so for my Avant Garde collection I wanted to use the element of netting, in this case colored netting, to create shapes we see as modern to create a mix of old and new.

For the Texture collection, I really had no boxes or limits to the way I approached the hair. I wanted to add a beautiful appeal to texture by incorporating bright colors and explore what hair does when you let is live in its natural form vs. what happens when you bend and mold it into various positions.

For the editorial, well that was about being inspired by what I consider strong hair. I wanted the hair to reflect strength so the collection had a tribal feel. However, there is an element of softness incorporated as well, which created a dichotomy of a strong but soft effect. It’s how I feel women show up in the world.

Team... oh Team! It’s no secret that Dilek Onur Taylor and I are colleagues as well as good friends. We have always had a mutual respect for each other’s works and while we possess different styles, we also share a love of opulence, fashion, beauty and unapologetically feminine mediums. We love being women. We own that. We don’t make apologies for wanting to wear pink, if you will. We knew we wanted to create a collection that reflected all of that and then some. Strong fashion and beautiful hair that paid tribute to the 60s & 70s paired with exquisite makeup was our goal. We have a running joke between us that, “If the hair doesn’t look expensive ...we didn’t do it!”


What does it feel like to be nominated in 4 categories?! 

It feels a lot like when you’re having the best dream, but then suddenly get that urge to go to the bathroom. You don’t want to wake up. Lol.... jokes aside, I’m thrilled. It’s safe to say that I think I’ve made a mark as an elite artist not only as a woman but a woman of color. 

Did you have a favorite collection?

I’m not going to say I have a favorite, but I will say the collection I got the most satisfaction from creating is the Team collection with Dilek Onur Taylor.


What did you learn about yourself through creating this collection?

I learned that I’m really good under pressure. It’s not easy to come up with creative collections back-to-back. It’s like when a writer produces a number one best seller and is told immediately after “I need you to start writing the next novel”. The turn around time for producing another collection was very short this year. I contemplated not entering because coming off of a win in 2018; I felt I was without fresh ideas. I have a huge problem putting out works that I’m personally not proud of. I pushed through and the ideas started flowing.... thank God. 

What was your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was like I said earlier, not having an inspirational idea, let alone multiple. 

What other forms of art inspire you?

I’m inspired by the art forms, of dance, fashion, millinery, landscapes, and beautiful architecture. 



How much prep time went into each piece?

I would have to say that each collection is an investment of a few months each. 

What was your favorite part about this shoot? 

My favorite part was seeing the final shot of each look. It’s in that moment that I know if magic has been created or not. 

It is an innate feeling. I ask myself “am I feeling something when I look at this?” In the dance world that’s how you know a piece works or is something special, with the difference being, “did you make your audience feel something with your movement?” There are indeed parallels.

How did you select your team? Have you worked with them before?

Yes, my team is the same team I started with 5 years ago. I found a system that works, and it works really well for me.... so why mess with perfection?


Where will we find you in Long Beach?!

It’s my first time at ISSE, so you’ll probably find me taking in the show and looking for inspiration from other artists. 

What are you looking forward to most about NAHA?

I’m looking forward to just relaxing and being in the moment of it. 

Looking for inspiration? Be sure check out all the NAHA finalists here