This week’s guest post comes from Mel, blogger behind Mel Smith Designs. She explains ‘Studying art and design at college and then specialising in Interior Textiles at university set things up nicely for me to venture into a design career. I started off working with a greetings card company – a great experience but my heart was still in interiors so I also freelanced for a few years producing designs for kitchen linens, bedding and stationery before deciding I wanted to go it alone. In 2012 I completed the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design e-course and Mel Smith Designs was born … My designs are inspired by my travels, with my aim to draw my way around the globe and translate my illustrations onto gifts and homewares. I’ll help bring your holidays home!’
1. What is your name and where do you come from?
Mel Smith (recently married but as my married name is sliiightly hard to pronounce (Weerakkodige) I thought best to stick to Smith for business!!)
2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?
Well, I’d love to be full-time and maybe one day I will be! I tend to take one big trip a year, so 3-4 weeks where I can travel around backpacker style (although I must admit I’m not one for hostels anymore…I like my quiet private rooms! I read on another interviewer this is actually a ‘flashpacker’…so I guess I’m one of them!) I also take my mum on a short European break each year so she can get to explore some places may otherwise never go. It’s a surprise Christmas gift for the following spring so I have to be pretty organised and book well in advance! My husband and I have a pretty long list growing though, no idea quite where to start but we are planning one big trip a year plus a sprinkling of European trips for good measure. He has a lot of friends in Europe so that may also come in handy…local tour guides, woohoo!
3. How do you fund your travelling?
I save up throughout the year for ‘the big trip’ and then the smaller trips are all booked when I see deals and offers (which gives me more money to spend on delicious foreign food and keepsakes from the trip!). It is all funded by my design business, a travel illustration business I run from home where I aim to draw my way around the globe! I love to translate my experiences into creative pieces which are then printed as homewares and wall art. I hope that when people see my work it brings back happy memories of their own trips to these places and they can relate to it. It’s like bringing their holiday home!
4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
Oooh, tough one. I think I would say Laos. I spent 5 days in Luang Prabang after 2 weeks in Vietnam and it was such a beautiful place, with beautiful people and beautiful temples…just everything about it, it was such a relaxing place to be, especially after the manic stays in Vietnams cities. I went out of season so it wasn’t too hot nor was it busy and full of other tourists so I felt like I got to see more of the ‘real’ Luang Prabang. The temples were just stunning, I could have looked around 100 more and I can’t say enough how friendly the people there were. I visited the night market every night and never left empty-handed. I love seeing the traditional crafts of an area (part of my creative personality I guess) and always buy some kind of homeware or textiles to add to my home. There are many places I would like to revisit but know I have new destinations to go to first, but if I am ever ‘in the area’ of Laos I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to an itinerary. I had tears in my eyes when I was leaving, that’s how much I loved it!
5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
My immediate memory is of Rome. I know a lot of people love it and my mum certainly enjoyed it, but I sadly did not. Perhaps if we’d had more time there it wouldn’t have felt so rushed and we could have explored at a more leisurely pace and not be stuck on the tourist trail 24/7. That coupled with missing the flight back due to crazy traffic has tainted my feelings somewhat! We laugh about it now (well, mum does) but at the time I just wanted to cry!
6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the 3 top places on it?
Only 3?! Ok, well:
– I’d still love to visit Cambodia to see the temples, and I’d love to do some volunteering with animals. I know there are charities but sometimes so little of the donation makes it to the actual cause I think to actually get out there and get involved directly would be the best thing. I’m not sure exactly where this would be, but as I’d like to help with elephants I suspect somewhere in Asia, so could tie this in with my Cambodia dreams!
– Mexico. That’s on both mine and my husbands list so that’s probably not too far in the future. The Aztec temples, the waterfalls and volcanoes, the food (although I’m not too sure how I’d fair with the spiciness!)
– Canada. Although I see this far in the future when I’m older and just want to get a quiet cabin on a lake with mountains in the background, a good stack of books, a log fire and blankets to curl up in. Oh yes….
7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?
Book, although now a kindle as I hate to throw away my books but don’t always have space to keep them with me the whole trip 😦
Sleep ‘accessories’ – travel pillow, ear plugs and eye mask. And no that doesn’t count as 3!
I’ll put my last one as a travel guide. I much prefer having a hard copy than an electronic copy as you can scribble notes and plans in it.
8. What makes you happy and why?
Planning my next trip! I’m a natural planner and when I pick a place to go I can’t wait to start planning. That and getting home and working on my next project- sketching every element of the trip – architecture, animals, traditional patterns of the region,
9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
Currently, my blog is related to my design work, but I am thinking of merging it with a ‘typical’ travel blog, so a mixture of my stories with photos and artwork together.
10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?
I relaunched my website a couple of years back as I wanted a makeover to go with my new 100% travel-related theme. It hosts my blog as well as linking to my product line, which includes postcards, coasters, tea towels, and art prints. I have so many places I want to sketch to create into homewares and artwork I don’t quite know where to begin! So far I have New York, Peru, Marrakech, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam, and right now I am keeping it a bit more local and working on some London designs, drawing the tourist landmarks alongside those places that the locals like to go that may not be on the typical tourist trail. I hope to capture the beauty and the personality of the city or country in my work so that it resonates with people and will bring back fond memories of their time there. Or perhaps it may even inspire them to book that as their next trip! Many people contact me saying how much they love their new art print and it now sits proudly on their wall as a memento of their favourite holiday. That makes me rather happy 🙂
From ESLT – thank you, Mel, for taking the time to answer our questions. Safe Travels 🙂