Today we meet Leeds based designer Michelle Gemmel. She used to design nightwear, underwear and swimwear for a number of companies but in 2012 she decided to start her own design company called Memelou, designing greetings cards, prints and notelets.
What is your background and how did you get into design?
I used to design nightwear, underwear and swimwear for a number of companies and from there I moved on to became a houseware designer for another large company before going freelance and setting up Memelou. I always loved art and design at school so studied it as at A-level, from there I then decided to do a Btec art foundation course at the Cumbria college of art and design, which allows you to try out different areas in art and design to decide which one is for you, and from that I decided to study printed textiles at St Johns University in York. When I graduated I knew I had to design so kept applying for design jobs until I got one.
What inspires you?
I’m mainly inspired by nature and animals but I also take inspiration from everything that is happening around me, such as lifestyles/seasons/hobbies etc
You like to tell a story in your work, tell us about the collections you have?
Yummy is a collection based around all the things you associate with summer, such as festivals, camper vans, ice cream and just generally having fun.
Gardinia is a collection totally based on what might be going on in your garden. I happen to be in my garden one day and thought to myself I wonder what happens when I leave it - do animals come out and talk to each other, do garden gnomes come to life? What happens? So i decided to do a range based on what I thought does happen.
Très chic is quite a sophisticated collection that mainly centers around a lovely french couple who do various things like fall in love, get married, have a baby, go out and about. It’s mainly about everyday life along with a few other characters to help compliment them and keep it fun.
Animalistic is a collection that is a play on words based on animals and insects. Just a really fun collection.
Magical forest is a story of all the creatures that live is trees which tells it’s own story in a way. It’s a more grown up collection and is a printed card series, rather then being aimed at a particular occasion.
Funtasy is a collection that is about all things that aren’t real such as monsters, vampires, dragons, living in space, fairys (sorry) and unicorns (really really sorry). I’ve also got a new range called the Unlikely Friends, which is the story of a friendship between a fox and a rabbit and how they help each other on their adventures. They like each other for their personalities, rather then what type of animal they should be seen with or what is safe.
You have recently been signed to Happy Press Agency. Are you planning to create any story books in the future?
Most definitely! A lot of people comment on my work being suitable for children books so that is something I would really like to get in to.
Are you going to diversify into any other products?
Yes, we are starting off with greeting cards and prints but really want to expand into all areas of stationary, story books, wall stickers and perhaps move into homeware.
Describe your creative process?
I can be wandering around and suddenly be inspired by something I see. I carry a small sketch pad with me so will jot the idea down or maybe do a sketch of it. Then I will go on pinterest and make a new board of ideas. I then go on my computer and start drawing. My work will then start to have a life of its own and perhaps go a different way to how I intended, but I let that happen as it’s all part of the development and I love how an idea can evolve.
How do you balance work and life?
At the moment my business has to work around my children as I’ve just had baby no. 2, but once he is older and can go to nursery with his brother. I will work 3 full days and spend the rest of the week with them, fitting in the odd job where I can. I try not to work too late at night or weekends as that is really important family / friends time, I’ve got to stick to that otherwise it’s easy to get consumed with work. It’s all a juggling act but the great thing about being self employed is you can make your work fit around your life.
What advice would you give people starting out in business now?
It really is hard work and you have to be patient. Don’t expect to get over night success. There will be a lot of sleepless night and tough times but you must believe in yourself and keep going no matter what. It is so rewarding having your own business and I have never looked back.
What shows are you doing in 2016?
To see more of Michelle Gemmel work go to http://www.memelou.com