Melee Shop is run by two queer creatives powered by fantasy and nature. We make arts & goods in "melee range." That's our nerdy way of saying hand made and within reach. Both A&M enjoying creating and escaping into the world of fantasy.

--- Ariel (they/them) & Michael (he/they)]

What made you want to start creating or selling?

Ariel is drawn to illustration and creating worlds that people can escape into and see themselves in. They currently are making art inpsired by their favorite fantasy genres combined with nature elements. Their ultimate goal is to offer custom character creation for fantasy TTRP with a focus on increasing visibility, inclusivity, and representation and for queer and POC people. They want to make people of all backgrounds, body types and abilities feel welcome in the world of fantasy. Michael got interested in making fantasy goods because he want his own dice bags and couldn't find quite what he was looking for. He most often creates physical prototypes for his soft goods, doing sometimes several iterations to get the seams, size, and function just right. He is an exploratory hands on thinker which translates into his many unique and thoughtful soft goods made on his heirloom professional singer.

What do you wish someone would have told you when you started? Did you have experience or did you learn as you went along?

College degrees aren't a sweeping measure of your worth. If you want to take classes, find an apprenticeship, be self-taught, or seek out an alternative way of learning, then do it.

What do you love most about your brand? Or the work you produce?

It's fantastical and let's us escape into other worlds. At it's best, it helps us imagine better futures.

What kind of challenges have you had to overcome as a small business owner? As an LGBTQIA+ artist or entrepreneur?

Competing with the capitalist market place and the fact that our society has so much wealth inequity making creatives have to hustle harder than everyone else to get half as much. Community, mutual aid, and being authentic have been the best tools in overcoming these challenges.

How have you pivoted or evolved your business because of Covid-19? // How has Covid-19 affected your creation process?

Yes- learning how to still connect to other artists and community has gone almost entirely virtual, but it has been very positive. Ariel specifically has felt so much support and validation from the queer community through social media (despite hating IG as a platform).


Is this your fulltime job?

This is my side hustle!

Who are some of your favorite queer artists or creators? Queer owned businesses?

IG handles: @_immortalmilk @shop.secondaryobjects @americanflesh @femmetalic @alexwallbaum @oachavez @thatmikeychick @itsneonyang @jwhitehead204 @imara_jones @taylaparx

What is something you’re looking forward to in 2021?

Winter hikes, tons of (fantasy ofc) reading, and hearty warm food to survive the Chicago winter.

Any organizations you love and would like folks to hear about?

Brave Space Alliance is an incredible group dedicating to uplifting, supporting and fighting for queer/trans POC in Chicago. We cannot say enough good things about them. I also volunteer with a mutual aid group called The Love Fridge in Chicago. It's all about community sharing what they have with each other, specifically food, but also time, household needs, etc. It's not a charity, it's about connecting people to one another and helping people in your hood which is what we love so much about them.

One last random thing about you! Can be totally random! 

If we lived in the world of ATLA, Michael would be an airbender and Ariel says they are an avatar, but Michael says that's not allowed, so Ariel begrudgingly is an earthbender.

shop and learn more @ Melee Shop's Virtual Booth