Thursday, 27 August 2009

Get yourself down to the The Red Door Gallery tonight 6-8pm to spy the wonderful Alice's Aviary exhibition.

Alice's Aviary presents for the first time a new collection of ornithologically themed screen prints from Illustrator and designer Alice Melvin. Continuing our new designer/artist feature we were able to grab an interview with the very talented Alice....

Q - We would love to know what typical day in the life of Alice Melvin is all about, any chance of a brief snippet? 

A - I always try to start a workday with a swim, which I find is the best way to wake up my body and head. So, thoroughly refreshed – if somewhat rosy cheeked – I then make my way to either my studio or if I’m in the middle of a print project to the print workshop. If it’s a studio day then I always start by wading through the morning admin which always takes up a depressingly large amount of time, before getting down to whatever illustration project I have in hand.

Q - Describe your studio. Where is it? How often do you use it and do you work alone?

A - After working from home for a number of years I now share a studio with another illustrator at St Margaret’s House on London Road in Edinburgh. Whilst the studio building is never going to win any beauty contests it’s great to have a working space that is outside of home. I work there Monday to Friday and often at the weekend too though I try to maintain something like a regular working week – a big challenge when self-employed!

Q - Do you always have a clear idea about how a finished piece will look or do you find ' developing ideas as you go? 

A - Both. I generally start off with a fairly strong idea of what I am working towards but as time goes on and the project develops I find myself constantly amending my images and ideas. On projects with a much longer time span - such as a children's book - this can be quite hard as you often find yourself having to work with drawings you created two years ago, by which time your style has evolved and developed.

Q - What piece of machinery or tool could you not live without?

A - It would have to be my iMac and the internet, I am lost without them! I would also struggle without access to a Pilot G-Tec-C4 pen which is what I do all my drawing with – I generally have about 6 on the go at any one time, and of course a screen printing facilities.

Q - You must have a huge list of inspirations as an artist, want to share any with us?

A - Like many artists I am an inveterate hoarder and a whole project can evolve from the smallest of starting points: a magazine cutting, an old postcard, an overheard conversation. At the moment I am obsessed with old bird books, vintage crockery and repeat patterns.

Q - You studied Illustration here in Edinburgh and have continued to live in Edinburgh since, how do you feel that Edinburgh as a city feeds you art?

A - I love Edinburgh - it’s such a great city. It has so many resources such as the wonderful Edinburgh Printmakers and of course galleries such as Red Door, which have been a great support. I’ve also got lots of friends in the creative industries who are based here and their advice and feedback really helps inform my work. The city is also endowed with some great public swimming baths – and I find nothing helps ease any creative block like a few hard lengths of the pool!

Q - In your eyes, has you work changed much over the last few years? 

A - Yes I think it is constantly evolving. I’m gradually becoming more comfortable and confident with my work and I consciously try to keep developing my style. Though I find one of the challenges of being self-employed is allowing yourself time to experiment with your work.

Q - You have impressively had 2 books published by the Tate as well as a number of accompanying products. Is this something you would like to continue alongside your print work? 

A - Yes, working with Tate has been a fantastic experience. My first book An A to Z Treasure Hunt was published by them when I was still relatively fresh form college and I really appreciated the time and support they gave me when I had so much to learn. I think the creative freedom I get with Tate Publishing is also pretty unique and it makes them a joy to work with. We have begun discussions about book three so watch this space!

Q - What is your favourite a) pastime b) possession and c) holiday destination?

A - Very hard – there are so many things I love doing it’s impossible to choose just one. It’s hard to beat a lazy Sunday morning with the papers and a good pot of tea though! I find it hard to choose a favourite possession too! I’m a terrible hoarder and enjoy have nice things in the flat, some of which have a lot of sentimental value, I couldn’t pick out just one as a favourite though! And holiday destination… a week in Paris please!

Q - For the last few years you have successfully worked solely as an illustrator. Do you have any advice for other creatives out there considering taking the plunge as a full time freelance artist/illustrator?

A - Just to realise that there will inevitably be lots of troughs as well as peaks but to keep persevering, it really is worth it. Also, brush up on business and admin skills – they may be boring but alas are essential to running a successful business.

Q - What does the future hold for Alice Melvin? Any exciting projects you are working on?

I’m getting taken out to Japan in October to promote my work at a British Fair in Osaka which is very exciting – I’ve not left the UK in about 3 years and have never travelled so far. I’ve also just launched my first greetings card range and I have a head full of ideas for new ranges and exciting projects – as ever it’s just finding those extra hours to get it all done in!

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