Delve into the vibrant and inspiring world of Mel Armstrong, an illustrious fabric artist hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. Her journey from the world of Information Technology to the delicate strokes of fabric design is as unique as her creations. With a penchant for colors, tales from her children, and nature's bounty, Mel has seamlessly integrated her diverse inspirations into intricate patterns and designs. As she juggles her time between whimsical children’s illustrations and intricate fabric artistry, Mel’s narrative offers a rich tapestry of experiences and insights.
From her initial foray into surface pattern design, fueled by the desire to craft something special for her newborn son, to her winning a design scholarship that kickstarted her illustrious career - every milestone is a testament to her dedication and passion.
Whether you're curious about her preferred shade of olive green, her morning creative rituals, or the tales behind her captivating 'Enchanted Garden' collection, our conversation with Mel promises a deep dive into her artistic realm.
Grab a coffee (her preferred choice!) and journey with us as we uncover the stories, inspirations, and musings of Mel Armstrong. It's a world where software engineering meets the cozy corners of a light-filled studio, where knitting needles find their unexpected purpose, and where every sunrise heralds the promise of new creations.
Let's get started!
- Name/Nickname: Mel Armstrong
- Location (City/Country): Wellington, New Zealand
- Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Let's Get to Know Your Creative Journey:
Around 10 years ago I couldn’t find fabric I liked to make something for my son who had just been born. I then discovered Spoonflower and realised I could design my own. I had a degree in Information Technology and worked as a Software Engineer, but I was burnt out and really didn’t like what I was doing. I also had a diploma in graphic design, so with that I started designing my own patterns. I also won a design scholarship for a surface pattern design school, which pretty much catapulted my career. After around 4 years of doing it part-time along side my contract work with software engineering, I became a full-time artist/illustrator and surface pattern designer.
What primarily fuels you creative inspiration?
While many might be inspired by nature, culture, or dreams, I am deeply influenced by the beauty of nature and the delightful stories my kids share with me.
Is there a particular shade that consistently catches my eye?
Olive Green has always held a special place in my artistic palette.
Do you have unique habits that elevate your creativity?
Every day, before I dive into my tasks, I make it a point to spend at least 10 minutes painting or sketching in my journal. It's a simple ritual, but it sets the tone for the rest of my day.
Behind the Scenes:
Describe your creative workspace in three words.
Cozy, light & inspiring
What's the most unusual tool/material you've ever used in your artwork?
A knitting needle!
Which artwork or design are you most proud of, and why?
Probably my Enchanted Garden collection. It really is a mix of my children’s illustrations and pattern design that have come together to tell a story.
Have you ever faced a creative block? How did you overcome it?
All the time. It usually means I need time out from work. I typically just do something nice for my self like go for a walk or play with the kids.
Is there any particular project that challenged you but brought immense satisfaction?
My first picture book. I had no idea what I was doing, but loved every minute of it.
If you could collaborate with any artist or designer (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
William Morris. I just love his patterns and knowing the process he went through to create each element with blocks, is just incredible.
Imagine you could bring one of your designs to life as a large-scale installation. Which design would it be, and where would you place it?
Dinos in the Night would be cool in a museum.
Art and Beyond:
Aside from fabric artistry, do you have any other artistic pursuits or hobbies?
I illustrate children’s books, knit, sew and do embroidery.
What do you like to do when you need a break from creating?
Hanging out with my kids or mountain biking.
Words of Wisdom:
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring fabric artists, what would it be?
Today marks the perfect beginning. Embrace the art of drawing each and every day. Keep in mind that building a rewarding career takes time and dedication. Take small steps towards your dreams, and with perseverance, success will flourish.
How do you keep the creative fire burning during challenging times?
Pattern design is very meditative for me, while painting helps calm my busy brain. Both creative pursuits have been a source of immense joy and solace, especially during challenging times.
Fun Quickfire Round:
- Coffee or tea? Coffee
- Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise
- Mountains or beaches? Mountains
- Cats or dogs? Dogs
- Pen and paper or digital tools? Digital