A day in the life of magical paper artist Melanie Edwards
In the first edition of our new nine to five series, Paper artist Melanie Edwards takes us through a typical day playing and pushing the limits of her delicate and magical craft.
I’ve just completed my final year as a Graphic & Communication Design student at the University of Leeds, and will graduate this summer. The last nine months have been extremely busy, having to divide my time between university work, and my personal passion projects.
Whatever the project, my process is always pretty much the same, but my typical working day can vary considerably, depending upon what stage I am at. In the instance I plan, making quick sketches and notes. This is then followed by art-working ideas in Adobe illustrator, and cutting out paper using computer aided design tools. Most of the work that I create is sculptural, and so I have to create structural “nets”.
I spend an incredible amount of time developing them, and often have to make and remake them using scrap paper until they’re just right. This is perhaps the most time consuming part of the whole process because it involves a lot of trial and error!
The final stage of my process is assembly. I cut my finalised designs from good quality papers, and use all-purpose glue to hold everything together. This is definitely my favourite part of the process. I love seeing my ideas emerge, realised in 3D.
Paper craft is a time consuming process, and because I don’t have a studio of my own yet, I do a lot of work from home. I often find this quite a struggle; it can be lonely at times.
I currently live and work in Leeds, which is a city I love! For designers and illustrators it’s very creative. On a rare spare day, I like to go into town and visit ‘Colors May Vary’; a shop that sells beautiful design books and prints. I also love attending creative talks and events, that are pretty frequent in and around the city. Next month for example, there’s a talk by Association of Illustrators at Leeds College of Art, and a Glug event – I’m really looking forward to both.
For obvious reasons, I have to do the actual paper cutting part of my work at home, so I take great pleasure in venturing out of the house when I can during the planning and art working stages. I’ll often spend a day or two (and a small fortune!) sipping lattés and soaking up my surroundings in one of the many artisan coffee shops that Leeds has to offer.
It was only a couple of years ago that I began working with paper. Immediately I loved it! Ever since then my passion for tactile design, and paper craft has continued to grow. I’ve never consciously tried to develop an illustration style. Instead I try to focus on simply making things that I enjoy making.
I’m inspired by detail…attention to detail and love bold colours. Hopefully this is evident in my work. If someone were to describe my style I’d like to think that these would be the aspects they would point out.
Generating work is obviously a key part of becoming a freelance illustrator, but sharing that work as widely as possible is perhaps just as important. In the future, I plan to build a website to showcase my work, but for now I display all of my projects on Behance. As an “emerging illustrator” it is vital I get my work seen by others, and connect with as many people in the industry as possible. Behance is the perfect platform to do both for me. I also have a new design focused Instagram account where I am trying to upload more of my less refined, experimental and developmental work.
Now I’ve completed my degree, my main goal is to commit all of my time and energy into building client relationships and creating new personal work. Of course I want to continue to develop and refine my craft, but I also want to put more energy into promoting my ‘brand’, and hopefully attract more professional work.
I know how competitive the illustration and design industries are; I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t scare me a little. But the challenge of breaking into it is one that really excites me. I know that success will require hard work and perseverance, but I’m willing to give it may all. Artists and designers I know personally are continually creating fantastic work, that I’m genuinely inspired by. I hope that in the future, I too can create work that inspires others and bring my personal touch to the industries I love so much.
Nine to Five is a new series taking you behind the scenes with various practioners. If you’d like to be considered for a feature, visit our submissions page.