Meet Mel Armstrong, Creator of Sunset Cockatoo and her Passion to Teach Surface Pattern Design
Mel Armstrong is an Aussie/Kiwi Illustrator & Surface Pattern Designer who now lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Mel illustrates children’s books and designs fabric, stationery and baby products. Her clients include Scholastic UK, Harper Collins, Hallmark Creative US, American Greetings, Auzou, Liontree Publishing, New Frontier Publishing, Oxford University Press to name a few. Mel once danced for both the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the Australian Ballet but her ballet career came to an end after a serious injury.
Indie Boho: How long did it take you to find your passion for surface design after you wrapped up your ballet career?
Mel Armstrong: Quite a while. I ended up going to university and getting a degree in Information Technology and worked in the corporate world for close to 20 years as a software engineer before starting a career in illustration and surface pattern design just over 10 years ago.
How do you define your design style?
My style is quite whimsical, especially my designs for kids. It's a combination of some traditional art and digital art, which gives it a unique textured look.
In terms of illustration and surface design, what work are you best known for or what is your proudest achievement?
I'm working on one at the moment, which is probably my biggest achievement and one of which I'm proud. Two of my designs featuring New Zealand birds are going to be used as wall panels at a brand-new eco-friendly shopping mall in Auckland, New Zealand. They are going to be huge and I can't wait to see them installed!
Describe your cockatoo illustration including your choice of using Hakea flowers. What do they mean to you?
I spent most of my life living in Australia and fell in love with the wildlife there.
I lived in the Southern Highlands NSW, where we used to have black cockatoos fly over our house at dawn and sunset every day. They are so majestic to watch and you could always hear them coming. The Hakea shrubs have flowers that cockatoos love to feast on, which is why I had to include them in my design.
What led you to creating your own surface pattern design course and what do you enjoy about running them?
I love helping others in pursuing a career that empowers and inspires them. Teaching online was not something I had thought about until I was invited to teach on Skillshare. My first class did so well and I really enjoyed creating it and helping people, so I just kept on going. Eventually this led to me creating my own signature course The Art & Joy of Surface Pattern Design, where I teach the creative, technical and business side of being a Surface Pattern Designer. This has also materialised into a lovely online community of like-minded creatives who support each other to nurture their careers.
Do you have a dog or cat? Tell us more about them!
I have one large, very sweet dog and two gorgeous cats that adore my kids. My golden doodle (Golden Retriever x Poodle) is such a chill dog, which is quite a change from my last energetic staffy. His name is Merlin. He has a funny personality, in that I know he's intelligent and sometimes just chooses not to partake in what I'm asking him to do, or it takes him 3 minutes to make his mind up if he will do it or not! He loves being next to my desk when I’m working and as soon as I laid out the travel mat for the first time, he curled up on it straight away.