Melissa Grace Farnie is a designer and founder of EL-AICH Designs. Originally from Sunderland, Melissa Grace now lives and works in Bristol's Cultural Quarter where she hand makes all of her bold designs.
Mackem designer Melissa Grace Farnie loves patterns. She loves them so much, in fact, that they are the sole focus of her company's short but sweet manifesto, “Patterns are well nice, pass it on!”. And pass it on, you should. Along with the details of her fabulous online shop, El-AICH Designs, of course!
We caught up with Melissa Grace to discover more about the woman behind these attention grabbing ceramic, clay and paper designs.
What is your design background?
After graduating with a Fine Art degree from Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University), I, like many of my classmates, headed straight to London where I worked for almost two years in advertising and marketing as a Creative Consultant. Realising that London wasn't the right place for me happily coincided with visiting and falling in love with Bristol. It seemed like a natural progression to move here, and I'm so glad I did as I now couldn't imagine living anywhere else!
The name EL-AICH is an amalgamation of two things; my nickname 'Lion' (given to me by friends because of my curly hair) and my work (making things with my hands). I then reduced these to their first letters i.e. 'L' for Lion and 'H' for hands, which when said in my North East accent sounds like "el" and "aich". Put these together and voila, you have EL-AICH!
how would you describe your current body of work?
My current body of work has shifted into a more adult and abstract arena. My previous collection, which I still love making of course, is much more playful and abides by a set of rules I put in place when making. With the new troops, I wanted to make pieces with a bit more personality. Textured brushstrokes, misbehaving forms and shapes, and sporadic splatters; all tied together as a uniform collection.
you have engaged in a number of collaborations. What do you love most about the process?
I love the process of working with another creative mind. It can get quite lonely in the studio, so having someone to natter with is a nice change! But honestly, working alongside artistic types is so exciting, especially with people from different practices. I've learnt so much from collaborating. It has expanded my knowledge on different techniques, skills and creative thought processes. As the old saying goes, 'two heads are better than one'.
Are you working on a collaboration right now?
I am currently working on a very exciting collaboration with textile designer Anna Spurling. We've been pinging designs back and forth to each other, working on them independently and pushing them back. I really love the flow of us working together. I also have a little something in the works with a Bristol based creative who makes the most incredible lampshades, so watch this space!
DoES youR LOCAL AREA and/or community affect your work?
Absolutely! Bristol is constantly changing and evolving. It's like stepping into a new city every day. Even the walls don't stay the same for the long. The golden rule here is "Don't lean on the wall, it's wet!".
YOU work across three mediums; ceramics, paper and textiles. When working on a new design, is your primary focus the pattern Or do you work with equal consideration to the medium?
It depends really. I love doodling patterns and shapes in my notebook, which is where most EL-AICH collections are born. I never begin painting a pot without a vague plan as it never works out well. I just end up making a mess. Working with clay is different though. I often set out to make a particular pot or shape and it just decides, "Nah! That doesn't work for me". I really like that though. The clay is always teaching me.
WHere do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere! Textured surfaces and objects particularly inspire me. I like touching things and feeling them, like pebbles that fit perfectly in my palm. Repeat patterns are also a big inspiration, I get lost in shape and form. I really love that and hope that it is echoed in my work.
WHAT practical ADVICE would you give to someone looking to launch their own creative business?
Do your research! When I first started out I made the mistake a lot of people do, trying to run before I could walk. Inevitably, I tripped up along the way. I think the best thing that you can do is to take your time and find a way to work that's right for you. Also, remember that YouTube tutorials are your friend and most importantly, always enjoy your craft.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Success is contentment and good coffee. If you have those two, you've got it made.
WHICH WOMEN DO YOU ADMIRE?
I am a big fan of artists Frida Kahlo and Tracey Emin, textile designer Lucienne Day, designer Ray Eames and actress Lena Dunham. They are all incredible women whose success and creativity inspires me.
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Hand Painted Clay Pots
Hand Painted Clay Dish Pot
Hand Painted Hex Mug Set