Being a creative can sometimes be a struggle between fulfilling a desire to create and making ends meet. Many of us have had to compromise along the way but what if the two could work seamlessly together?
Melisah May is a Newcastle based artist who has fulfilled a lifelong dream of running her own artists studio in the heart of the city. With a background in teaching she is able to combine her two loves – art and teaching – to offer a creative hub for people to discover the joys of art while continuing to make a name for herself in the art world.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist and have always been involved in something creative. I completed a degree in Natural History Illustration at Newcastle University then a Certificate in Small Business Management with plans to start my own freelance practice. Unfortunately illustrators weren't in great demand at the time so I decided to return to uni and get my teaching qualification. For the past seven years I’ve been a full time Secondary Visual Arts and Photography Teacher while building a name for myself as an artist on the side as well as holding exhibitions and teaching in London for two years. I’m not really content with staying put too long!
Summer Rain, 2015, Acrylic on canvas by Melisah May
As a freelance illustrator and artist, how do you get your work out there?
Social media is obviously a big help now so I try and utilize that as much as I can. Before Facebook and Instagram, I had to get the word out there the old fashioned way - by talking to people! I found doing lots of markets helped me get my work out there and just asking people in cafes and shops if they would hang my work. I have to remind myself of those days because I find myself relying on social media way too much these days.
You have an amazing light-filled studio in the heart of Newcastle. How did that come about?
Completely by chance! I wasn’t looking for a studio but a friend told me about the space and I thought I’d go have a look. I fell in love and decided to take the plunge. Starting my own art studio has been my dream for a long time. By the end of last year I had swapped full tine teaching with being a full time small business owner!
How do you use this space to create? Does it inspire your work?
It is definitely a very inspiring space. I still pinch myself every time I walk in! I love having so much room to move and I feel like I’m kind of developing and growing with my work as the studio develops. Everything I do in the space is promoting growth and positive experience so that environment is a catalyst for my practice
It’s different every time really. Just quietly, it's usually a big stressful rush towards the end! Generally however, I will have an idea for an exhibition based on what I have been making at the time and just work on tightening that body of work to form a coherent narrative.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere - music, art history, pop culture, people on the street, food - you name it! I do love books though and I would have to say the one thing that never fails to inspire me even when I’m feeling flat is wandering through a bookstore and looking at books of all descriptions. It’s one of my favourite things to do especially in used bookstores!
You also offer workshops for adults and children, is teaching something you love?
Absolutely. I love teaching, and I always want it to be part of what I do. Nothing compares to the feeling of helping someone smile and feel accomplished.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue to develop the studio as a business and provide more creative and diverse opportunities for people to indulge in their inner artist. I also want to start exhibiting my own work more frequently in 2016. I feel I have a lot to express from my experiences in this past year and I’m excited about what’s to come.
On a quest to live a more creative life, Christina loves any type of crafty project and has tried everything from watercolours and flower arranging to paper craft and calligraphy. She has an unhealthy obsession with Instagram and when not working in freelance travel and lifestyle PR, spends her time as a mama, wannabe photographer and magazine junkie. She currently coordinates CWC events in Newcastle.