Melanie Chadwick is a designer-maker and freelance illustrator based in the UK. Mel divides her time between creative work for businesses, licensing and commissions and designing and creating modern, eco-friendly products for her homeware and accessories label, Mellybee. This elective mix of responsibilities means that her processes and tools are varied, and that a working day could mean working with anything from a squeegee or sewing machine to a wacom tablet. We caught up with Mel to find out more about her experiences as a small business owner and the wonderful things she designs and makes.
Tell us about your work…
My current Mellybee collection is all about mark making and streamlining the colours I use. I’ll start off with simple black paintbrush patterns which I then digitally manipulate; next I’ll take these back to the screen to burn and print fabric from. The colours I use also influence what I make, for instance, the first time I printed my linear triangle pattern on black fabric using gold ink I knew immediately that it had to become some kind of bag. My pieces are usually inspired by nature although not in a literal way. I get ideas whilst going for walks in the countryside or by the sea and translate these into my contemporary designs.
I’ve been self employed in some form or other for the last 14 years. After completing a degree in Fine Art I’ve since been exhibiting, teaching and leading workshops. It’s only in the last six years that I’ve been screen printing and designing my own products, and more recently in the last six months that I’ve launched this new range of products under my rebranded Mellybee label. I love to be in control of the work that I produce and have an outlet to experiment and try new things. Being self employed gives you a degree of that freedom, as long as you make the time to focus on it and commit to it.
What’s your work/life balance like?
I’m currently based in Falmouth, Cornwall which has certainly has helped me with inspiration as the landscape is so beautiful. The only problem with being in Cornwall is that it can be quite a trek if you want to get out and connect with events happening further up country, such as designer-maker fairs and markets. You can sometimes feel quite isolated, which is why I think social media is great tool for connecting with other people from all over the world, and for promoting your work from home.
When I’m not working, I like watching a good film with my husband, going for a long walk, strumming a guitar or reading a good book. I also enjoy exploring new places. We used to live in Hong Kong, which was amazing as there were so many different cultures colliding and interacting. It’s a brilliant and vibrant place to find inspiration.
Tell us about your processes and your workspace…
All of my work is produced by hand from start to finish. I think that what’s attractive about screen printing is that you’re able to connect with what you’re making on a really visceral level. I hope that people buying my work will have a similar reaction and see that the piece they’ve chosen is one of a kind, made especially for them. I’ve recently re-organised my studio space making giant pegboards to organise and display my tools as well as using big dug shelving to hold all the screens and inks. You can take a mini tour here:
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m focused on my new Mellybee collection and on creating content for my YouTube channel which is where I post videos about how and where I work and tutorials on screenprinting and more. Over the next few months I’m hoping to collaborate with and interview other artists, although it’s all small steps at the moment.
Where we can find your work?
On the Mellybee website of course. I’ve also recently teamed up with Tilli gifts, a brilliant new online shop and service that sends out curated boxes of loveliness and donates 10% of their profits to charity. They chose my small black and white storage pots for their latest box, titled The Minimalist. I also have lots of stockists around the UK which can all be found in the stockists section of my website. If you’re interested in my illustration and design work have a peek at my portfolio. I also like to hang out on instagram as @mellybee_uk and @melanie_chadwick, so feel free to pop by and say hello.
Any advice for other small business owners?
Running your own business is never plain sailing, in fact you have to work mighty hard to get where you want. I would say that having to wear many different hats can be initially overwhelming, particularly when starting out. I’m finding that perseverance is the key, along with a willingness to fail and get things wrong. I tend to learn a lot more through my mistakes than if I just take the safe route.
Find more here
Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth
Photography: Emma Jones and Melanie Chadwick