Talking Tables founder Clare speaks to senior designer Melanie about her role and the inspiration behind the creation of our collections.
Melanie describes her role as creating innovative designs in collaboration with product developers. This is typically done on a seasonal basis. Melanie says she seeks to push boundaries forward, which indeed she did with some recent examples...
Melanie studiously researched which crown Charles III would wear on 6th May and reflected this in her design mimicking the sumptuous King Edward’s crown. Working with our 3D mock-up artist, Melanie applied her designs to this intricate new cake stand.
Melanie reminded me that our hostess may be braver than we sometimes imagine and is seeking something fresh and a little out there to surprise and excite her guests.
Clare: Your trend work is always popular in our newsletters, how do you find inspiration?
Melanie: "from anywhere and anything. I am visually literate, so will constantly pick up clues when out and about, for example, a friend recently treated me to a trip to the Arts & Craft House, Kelmscott Manor , engaging us in inspirations from the William Morris prints on show and the beautiful gardens.” Melanie also finds inspiration in the art world, for example the immersive and abundant colours of David Hockney at a recent trip to the Lightroom near Kings Cross.
Melanie also finds interior magazines such as Elle Décor, Living Etc and Wallpaper, useful as interior trends can be longer lived than those of fashion. But all such trends find a connection, within the creative industries of architecture, fashion, interiors, fine art and design, and also creatives on instagram.
Melanie and her fellow designers at Talking Tables carry out formal trend research using the major trend reports which they share with us seasonally.
Clare: How did you get into designing for the gift industry?
Melanie explained that even as a child she enjoyed drawing and that all her siblings enjoy creativity; be that music, graphics or art. Melanie started her career in graphics designing logos and letterheads etc, but picked up a freelance illustrator role on greeting cards after her second child was born. This work then leaned more and more towards social stationery, cake toppers and children’s partyware and the rest is history, as we say!
Clare: What challenges are there?
Melanie explained that the technology continues to evolve which is beneficial but does take time to learn. Likewise, she has to consider the ongoing challenges of big files; working in the cloud, file sharing and the odd systems crash. But Melanie ensures she stays in touch with the new opportunities and says she taught herself a new iPad App for digital painting during lockdown and only last week made time for a two day Adobe Illustrator course. However, despite all the available tech, Melanie loves, best of all, to get the paints out and we also love this authentic design route also which can be seen in the watercolour stripes of Everyone’s Welcome.
Clare: How has Talking Tables’ focus on sustainability impacted you?
Melanie: "Of course, we dropped shiny metallic foils! It was a very significant journey to rethink all the packaging as we removed all plastic, and now, when, for example, considering home composability, I have to consider the choice of colours very carefully. I also need to consider the impact of a recycled substrate on the design choice made. We are now actively considering our communication of all this on the product and packaging – be that calling out plastic free or integrating our BCorp logo"
Clare: Do you have a recent favourite product that you designed?
"I rather love the grand Coronation Gold State Coach carriage"
Clare: Do you have a favourite gift store?
Melanie could not resist mentioning a few, from local Gloucestershire stores such as Domestic Science which she and I both enjoy for its well-considered, but eclectic mix, and a long time favourites, Burford Garden Centre, but also classic haunts such the V&A and Liberty’s.
It was lovely to chat to Melanie and I always enjoy working alongside her. I know that I can rely on Melanie to have first hand knowledge of hosting – she always puts some flowers and a paper napkin on the table when her mum comes round for Sunday lunch; she is often the family host for an Easter spread and her daughter Katie, keeps her in the know on the younger trends.
Melanie describes her design inspiration for Twilight, our major new autumn/winter collection: “The Twilight collection was inspired by folk art, the Arts and Crafts movement and jewel tones which emerged in our trends scouting for the season. We included some upcycled sari fabric bunting and tinsel, handcrafted in India in our Christmas offerings and we wanted to evoke Indian folk art with hand painted forest animals and flora and fauna and jewel tone colours.”