P&P Scholarship Winner Interview: Mel Armstrong



    We recently launched the 2017 Make it in Design Scholarship in association with Print & Pattern. Last year we were thrilled to receive some amazing entries from applicants in 27 different countries around the world and had a wonderful time reviewing all of the applications.

    Entries are shortlisted by ABSPD co-founders Rachael Taylor and Beth Kempton, with final judging by Marie Perkins at the Print & Pattern blog.

    The lucky winners of the 2016 scholarship each received a free place on Modules 1-3 of The Art & Business of Surface Design and The Ultimate Portfolio Builder

    Plus 90 days free access to leading trend forecasting site WGSN and opportunities to feature on the Print & Pattern blogMOYO magazine, and the Make it in Design website.

    In the run up to the 2017 scholarship we wanted to showcase our very talented scholarship winners from 2016 and so today we bring you an interview with Mel Armstrong who was selected by MIID Co Founder and established designer Rachael Taylor.


    • When did your interest in design first start and how did that come about?

    I’ve always loved to draw and have worked as a graphic designer creating websites and logos for years. I also love to sew and create things, so just before my son was born I tried to find some fabric to make some baby clothes. I had a lot of trouble finding something I really liked. I googled ‘custom fabric design’, thinking maybe I could design something myself and have it printed. It’s then I discovered Spoonflower and a whole new world opened up for me. Fabric design was something I was interested in when I was in school, but I instead followed a career in ballet & acting, so it’s only now, 20 years later that I’m doing what I first thought I might do as a career.


    • What steps did you take to get to where you are now as a designer?

    Other than a Graphic Design Diploma, I’m pretty much self-taught. I found as much information as possible online that I could, to learn about pattern design. YouTube is a haven for videos made by other designers and I learned a lot from them. I also signed up to Skillshare, where I did a couple of courses by Bonnie Christine. I took part in the 2015 MIID summer school, which then prompted me to apply for the P& P scholarship. I also make a habit of trying to draw every day in my sketch book and gathering inspiration.


    • How would you describe your style?

    Quirky, fun, whimsical and organic



    • What kind of designer do you want to be known as?

    I guess I want my designs to be recognisable as mine. I want my work to be unique but up with current trends. I’d love for people to recognise my work on products, even if my name isn’t on it.


    • What are you working on currently?

    I’m currently working with an Australian company to design their first ever children’s greeting card range. This is a very exciting project for me and them and I can’t wait to see my designs printed on their vintage press machines early in 2017. The range will be launched in April and I look forward to sharing it with you all.


    • What advice would you give emerging designers wanting to build their portfolios?

    Draw something everyday and look for inspiration in everyday life, not just Pinterest! I take much of my inspiration from things my very imaginative 3 year old says to me. I kind of feel like I’m stealing ideas from him, but I know they are organic and fun.


    • What would be your dream design gig?

    It’s a toss up between illustrating a children’s book and having an ongoing relationship with a fabric manufacturer producing lots of gorgeous organic/eco friendly fabric. Can I have both?


    • Looking ahead what are your major goals for the next couple of years?

    Getting a fabric licensing deal, increasing my freelance work, building my greeting card and children’s illustration portfolio with my agent (Advocate Art) and starting my own brand of children’s clothing.


    • If you were a pattern what kind of a pattern would you be and why?

    It would definitely be cute and quirky. Something you wouldn’t expect!


    • How did you find out about the P&P scholarship?

    I took part in the summer school in 2015 and absolutely loved it. I later learned about the P&P scholarship from notifications from the MIID team and knew I had to give it a go. I really wanted to do the whole 4 modules, but having a toddler and only working part-time, it wasn’t financially possible. I was also pregnant at the time so didn’t know if I could fit it all in with a new baby and a toddler. It was actually a last minute decision to enter and I was away with my family when the winners were announced. I remember seeing a Facebook notification pop up on my phone that someone had tagged me in a comment saying congratulations. I replied ‘thank you’ thinking it was because I had made the top 50. I didn’t realize until a day or two later that I’d actually won!


    • Please tell us about your experience of the e-courses taken as a result of winning the scholarship.

    The experience was confidence boosting, and great for the heart and soul. The community of designers has been so supportive and really helpful and the exercises have been fun, exciting and challenging. A year ago, I’d never have thought I’d be designing nail art or surfboards.


    • What advice would you give to designers thinking of applying for this years scholarship?

    You really have nothing to lose. Even if you think you don’t have time or you don’t think you’re good enough (you are). If you’re working full time or have kids, the way the course is structured you can make it work. Submit your two best/favourite pieces, work that you are really proud of and that you believe stand out as different and unique and that represent you. Just go for it.


    • What was the most important lesson you took away from the e-course?

    Never chuck out any work you have created because you didn’t think it was very good. One of my very first patterns designed in Module 1, which I didn’t think was any good, has since been licensed to two different companies for different products through my agent. Keep all your sketches, organize them, so you can go back and review them every now and then.


    • What difference did it make to have a supportive community of fellow students and how important do you think that will be going forward?

    The supportive community plays a huge part in the success of these courses. Having a safe area to share your work and get constructive feedback from fellow students is extremely helpful and you’ll make some great friends. Going forward these friendships may turn into business relationships taking you to places like tradeshows and building a brand together.


    MelArmstrong-ProfileI love drawing! If I don’t have a sketchbook with me I panic. It’s an addiction that started a couple of years ago after trying to find some fabric for my son. I couldn’t find what I wanted so decided to design my own and then somehow fell into a new career illustrating and pattern designing. Since then I’ve won the Make it in Design scholarship (2016), licensed greeting cards through my agent Advocate Art, and worked freelance for Australian based greeting card companies. Everyday I wake up pinching myself and feeling eternally grateful for being able to draw everyday!

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