Give Melina Fiorella a blank canvas, and she’ll turn it into a masterpiece. Whether it’s on a vase, piece of china, platter or lamp, she can use her talents to paint life-like images on whatever is in front of her.
Her Hoover house, which she’s lived in for the past 48 years, has become a piece of art in itself. She’s painted all of the lamps there, along with her 14-karat-gold-trimmed china sets, platters, punch bowl, cups, goblets, vases, an umbrella stand and much more.
She originally started by painting fabric and soon took art lessons. From there, she moved to watercolors but ran out of wall space for her creations. Then, she started painting china, which she’s been doing for nearly 30 years now.
Melina uses photos she’s taken as the inspiration for her pieces. One of her recent photos was of the flowers her family gave her for Valentine’s Day, which she plans to paint on a platter.
Her three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren serve as both the inspiration and the recipients for many of her projects. All four of her granddaughters have painted china with her, and she used to take them to art class when they were younger. “They like seeing me paint, and they’re happy when I’ve done something,” Melina says of her family. “But when they’ll really appreciate it is when I’m not around.”
When asked if she has a favorite piece she’s painted, it was like choosing between her children. “The reason I rarely sell my china and give very little away, except to my friends and family, is because I honestly love it all,” she says.
Though each piece is special to her, two especially stand out. One is the chandelier in her home, which she took apart and recreated using painted tea cups and saucers. “That’s probably my most outstanding piece,” she says. The other is a 52-tile table she painted with pictures of her children when they were younger sitting on the beach.
Melina now competes in world and international china painting competitions and has also been featured in various publications. She says it never gets old seeing her city be featured as well. “It does something to me to see my name in a magazine with ‘Hoover, Alabama, USA,’ next to it,” she says. “I love Hoover.”
In 2013, she received a third-place ribbon at the World Organization of China Painters (WOCP) show and convention in Mobile, for one of her pieces. The vase featured a portrait of her granddaughter wearing her first communion dress, which Melina also sewed.
With only 22 ribbons given out at the competition, Melina says it was quite an honor, though she didn’t realize how prestigious the recognition was until afterward. “I went into it blindly,” Melina recalls. “Some of the ladies who went with me to dinner that night said, ‘You don’t understand: Some of the teachers are crying because they didn’t get a ribbon. But you did.”
But there’s more to her than her watercolors and artwork too. Melina also enjoys sewing, which started when she would create her children’s Halloween costumes.
She’s also a master at cooking and currently is working on a cookbook to pass her recipes for dishes like her Lebanese meat pie, shrimp and grits, dough and biscuits.
“These are things that are priceless,” she says. “If I don’t take pictures of the food and write down the recipes, we’re going to forget how I did stuff.”
Halloween enjoys cooking for family and recently hosted an heirloom baby shower for her granddaughter, which required two months of cooking beforehand and featured pieces Melina had painted. For the party she also hung a collection of heirloom dresses, which she refers to now as “picture-taking clothes,” she had made for her granddaughters through the years along the fireplace.
As a present, she made her great-granddaughter a quilt with her name hand-embroidered on it. The shower showcased Melina’s many talents but, more importantly, her love for her family. “The food was over-the-top delicious — quite an art to all of it,” Melina says. “That baby shower was probably better than any wedding.”
So, while she enjoys all of her artwork that lines the walls of her home, for Melina, what’s important is the memories she makes there with her loved ones. “I’ve seen four generations in this house,” Melina says. “I’m still blown away about that.”