Work in Progress | Melissa Colson

Has anyone ever asked you, "So...you do what?" perhaps with their head slightly tilted to one side and a confused-yet-polite expression on their face as they're trying to understand what in the world you're talking about? 

As a surface designer, I've gotten this response more than a few times when I tell someone what I do for a living. If you're not familiar with my story, I wanted to share a little bit about what it's like as an artist, and why I decided to enter into the world of designing home décor products.

A surface designer is an artist that designs patterns and artwork that will be used on products. Now, to be fair, it is an unusual career. It's not quite as straightforward as saying you're a lawyer, or teacher, or project manager like my sweet husband Jason, who has been so instrumental in the logistics side of our business. It's a career that up until a few years ago, I didn't even know existed.

Any artist will tell you that a common response you get when you tell people what you do goes something like, "Oh that must be fun...you get to do a hobby for your job!" When I was first starting out, that used to bother me a little, because what they were really saying, probably without meaning to, was that it couldn't be taken too seriously. But you know what? It really is fun!

 

Like most artists, I didn't plan to become one someday. I studied  interior design at Florida State University and really enjoyed it. To me, that was the best of both worlds, a place where I could blend art and business. During my study abroad summer in in London, Paris, and Milan, I studied art and the history of decor and furnishings. I fell in love with it.

I would say that my style and design aesthetic was shaped by two main things: the time I spent in Europe and my childhood. Growing up in the South I spent many hours outside. I could always be found drawing or painting and to this day, one of my favorite things is to study the simple beauty of a flower and capture its colors and subtleties.

After graduation, I took my first design job, but would find myself looking for little areas to bring my art into my work, mostly through design renderings for my clients. My time working in interior design was invaluable. One of my favorite things was getting to know my customers. I enjoyed solving design problems, and I learned about their likes, needs, and concerns. I saw what goes into the design of quality products that not only sold well, but had functionality. I always told my customers that you pay for what you don't see. The value is in the details.

Shortly before my first child was born I made the leap and started my own company as a professional illustrator. It gave me the flexibility to set my own schedule, and it also reinvigorated my creative energy. I started off doing architectural renderings, which led to illustrating for a leading travel magazine, Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report. 

From there I had the opportunity to work with Alfred Dunhill, a luxury menswear company in London. My work has also appeared on the CBS show, Two Broke Girls. My time as an illustrator really stretched me. I was frequently asked to draw things I had never before attempted, and honestly many times felt were beyond my skill set. The only thing to do was figure it out! This laid the groundwork for habits that would help me later on. 

The business side of art is what separates the hobby from the career. Business fascinates me. I've watched my Dad run a small business from the time I was little, and I think I've always had the bug. The idea of being my own boss and having the freedom to make my own decisions and set the course for my company really appealed to me. Thankfully, my husband has been a very supportive partner. He's remained my biggest source of encouragement, and reminds me on the hard days why I chose this in the first place. Over the last 14 years in business we've had to adapt to a number of unforeseen circumstances. But that's what makes business so incredible...the constant need to change and get better.

Always looking for new challenges and ways to grow my skills as an artist, I became fascinated with surface design and the process of using artwork to create repeating patterns or designs to be placed on products. I took a few online classes and started creating patterns of my own.

I wondered what my designs would really look and feel like in person. I found a company that would produce a one-off sample of my creations, so I ordered a sample of my first tea towel design. From the moment I unwrapped it and held it in my hands, I was completely hooked! My own product...that I created...how cool was this?! The tactile, hands-on application of art resonated with me. I continued to mock up designs and order samples. There was something really special about seeing my work come alive in a room through wallpaper, fabric, table linens...the possibilities were endless!  I had sold my own art prints in the past, but home goods?

I started dreaming what that would be like and last year, I made the decision to develop a few collections of my own products. I can honestly say that it's made me a much better designer. It's one thing to paint a design on paper but another thing entirely to format it for an end product, navigate the logistics and profit margins, and finally sell the product. It's hard work at times, but I discovered that I love this part too!  

An entrepreneur at heart, I developed my brand with the desire to help people live well every day. To us, living well means so much more than showing off a picture-perfect space on social media...its about creating a quality lifestyle for ourselves and those we love. Our homes should be lived in and enjoyed each and every day, not just on the special occasions. I want to create products that are not only beautiful to look at, but will hold up with use--a "livable luxury" so to speak. I believe our surroundings have a significant impact on our outlook and quality of life, and I want to help you to enjoy your home as much as I do mine. 

I can hardly wait to release our next peel and stick wall mural! We'll be launching very soon, but until then here is a short sneak peek. This design is near to my heart because I painted the original mural on my daughter, Olivia's bedroom wall several years ago. It's part of our upcoming Woodland Wonder children's decor collection. Be sure to sign up below so you'll be notified as soon as our new products go live. Plus you'll receive 20% off your first order!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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