Thursday, October 1, 2015

Here Comes Halloween

Welcome one and all to the ghoulish write-up of Mela's Halloween shops! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
....enough of that.
I'd like to introduce you to my efforts for my favorite time of year: Halloween! I have 21 designs total in my RedBubble shop (Melasdesign), and nearly as many on CafePress (Melasdesign1). Each site offers a bit of a different twist on how the designs are printed, and each site has its own unique designs, so both are worth a look. Don't forget to grab a few reusable bags for trick-or-treating. Allow turnaround time when ordering. Now on to the graphics, and their stories.

This pic was the first order of business this year - something a friend had emplored me draw, hearkening back to old witchy kitty drawings on Halloween cards from looooong ago (ie mid-century or earlier). I was going for a cartoonish look that might be remind someone of a Silly Symphony or the like. Cheery and cute, tongue in cheek. I especially like RedBubbles bags and stickers of this one! CafePress's cards, bags (think trick-or-treating!) and stationery are fun.

This drawing can be a little Halloween, a little Day of the Dead. I see folks celebrating both as one festival, so I put stylus to tablet. I figured folks have seen a million sugar skulls by now and wanted to do something a little different. Something for bird watchers and fishermen? My pet parakeet was looking a bit concerned while I was drawing this one. I looked up reference photos on bird skeletons to make sure I wasn't too far of the mark. So, see this as sugar skullish work, or two skeletons resting on a bed of flowers. Either suits my imagination. A black RedBubble t-shirt is just spiffy with this design, or a CafePress lunch bag.

I couldn't quite bring myself to do zombie art, so I followed my traditional values ;) and did a bold monster's hand with plucked, bloodshot eyeball. ...and why shouldn't the thing emit sparks? A little Mela, a little Tesla. Something for fans of eyeball art - a design that's an eency bit shocking.  This is one of my favorites, so I have a hard time recommending a preference, but on RedBubble, the Ts, laptop covers, pillows and wall art are all mighty fine. CafePress prints up rockin' phone covers and drinkware.

This is another design I had been wanting to do for a long time, and it's especially near and dear to my heart. I grew up with stories at family gatherings about the happenings at my great aunts' houses. One aunt had a house where something had a habit of moving a certain plant. At the others' house, an angel statue in the yard would move. The great thing was, everyone took it in stride as far as I could tell. The travel mug on RedBubble is especially fun, and CafePress offers great Ts and sweats.

The notion of this pic wouldn't leave me alone. The rhyme popped into my head, and I just had to do something with it. Know any racing fans, or perpetually speedy drivers? This just might be the one for them. ...because who has ever heard of a witch flying slowly???? CafePress offers mugs and Ts and RedBubble has bewitching bags, Ts, drinkware, and pillows.

And last, but not least, my throwback design of a swarm of rats from India's Karna Mati temple, where the critters are sacred. There it's a year-round thing, but this design seems just right for Halloween. My faves on RedBubble are the stationery and journals. On CafePress, the phone covers really catch my eye.

There are more designs where these are featured, with more photographic shots and designs with skulls and jack-o-lanterns. Whatever you end up doing on the big day, I hope you have a magical time! Know that the ones who've passed are really just around the corner.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Two Cats, Near and Dear

In a continuation of my new direction of cat portraiture, I have two new cats to share. These kitties are close to my heart, but for very different reasons. Let me introduce Oliver and Caspar. I haven't met either of these cats in person, but have seen so many photos on the internet, be it on a fan-base level or from a friend I just don't live that close to anymore. Oliver, hence forward known as Oliver the Sniffy Norwegian Orange Tabby, belongs to Lexidh Solstad of G+ (and much earlier, DeviantArt) fame. Lexidh is an animal lover and floods the net with wonderful pictures of her cats and dogs. She is a fantastic photographer in her own right, and was thankfully agreeable to letting me use her picture of Oliver as a model. How could anyone pass up such a pose? He's one curious cat.

If it's a pose you cannot pass up, check out my RedBubble shop for items sporting this pic. I had a wonderful time drawing this picture, mainly because of the quality of light. This is something Lexidh nails every time! It makes me want to visit Norway and see if everything is really as vivid and bright.

The next cat is Caspar, known here as Caspar with the Lion Cut, on his Doggie Blanket. I've never met Caspar, but his "mom" is a dear friend, Sharon Ganzhorn, who excels at helping out animals in need. One time when we were together, she found a stray mama cat on the side of the road and took her in without a second thought. She is also active in feral trap, spay/neuter and release in her area. Lastly, she started an animal charity called SCAT, Inc. that has regular auctions on Facebook, along with other successful fundraising efforts through out the year. The proceeds go directly to animal rescues and shelters of her choosing, with everything from cats to elephants benefitting. 10% of the proceeds of each cat portrait I am hired to do also goes to SCAT, Inc. It's great to have a trusted charity, where I know for certain that the funds are actually going where they are reported to go. Please check out SCAT's Facebook page and join in the fun! Now as far as Caspar goes, I do know this: He's spoiled rotten! Never seen a cat with a lion cut? It keeps his belly cool in the sweltering Virginia Summer. 
Cat Calendar of Art by Susan P Hicks

Find Caspar on RedBubble products including a calendar of my cat drawings that you can order to start in any month of the year, so it's always up-to-date. Just in time for back-to-school!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New - Cat Portraits from Melasdesign

I see that it's been a while since I've posted to this blog. Let me report that I have been very busy! I continue to post to my CafePress shop, and have opened a RedBubble account for a different selection of quality products, including mugs, t-shirts and pencil skirts. It's the place to go for art prints of my work. But that hasn't been all! I'm starting a new venture: I now offer cat portraiture by commission. This can be arranged through my newly designed homepage website! Here are some examples.

What is my process? Well, I start with a photograph of the cat being featured and draw him by hand using my tablet drawing app Artflow Studio. The quality of the picture along with the complexity of the cat's markings are the main factors which help me decide the style I will draw the cat in. 

Once the cat is drawn, I decide on a background, be it plain, patterned or detailed. You can see various examples of different background types in this post. I let the cat's pose help determine what type of background I will choose. I do tend to choose patterned backgrounds for cats that have an animated pose. Cats in a more basic pose, especially if no paws are showing, generally get a more detailed background. Sometimes this background is fantasy. 

Sometimes it is based on the background in the cat's photo. The color of the background is usually meant to compliment the cat's coat color. When picking patterns for the background, I do tend to like wood block type floral designs. Of course other patterns can be done.

I am collecting all of my cat designs and will soon decide which will be featured in a year-end calendar. If I do a portrait for you, it might end up in the running! 

Want to keep up with my cat portraits? I recommend following my Instagram account, Melasdesign. I will post each portrait there and details as to whether it's being offered in my shops.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A new series has been posted to Melasdesign ( on CafePress. The designs are fantasy flowers, which were inspired by wood cut / block styles of printed textiles from Asia and India. Above all, the designs were meant to make a bold visual statement and look good as monoprints. Using organic symmetry, loosely drawn, the designs are expressive and impressive. The designs imply a bigger sense of life with central points and tendrils that look almost more animal than plantlike. Is the flower staring at you? Three radial flowers sport three very different constructions.

Printed products range from ladies' apparel to housewares, from stationery to phone covers. Most images stick to black on white, but there are colored t-shirts available for women with the print in white. Mela's favorite items are t-shirts, yoga mats, note cards, pillows, and seat covers. Search out something unique for your lifestyle!

Just added - T-shirts and  more in color! Surf on by!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Collection of Vases - Spring 2015

EDIT 9/17: Since this was posted, I have closed my Etsy shop. Please visit for handmade items from Melasdesign. 

Introducing the Melasdesign collection of Vases (which double as vessels and triple as wine cozies) for Spring 2015. Each vase has a glass core, so it does hold water. The felt is sturdy enough to be a vessel on it's own if the glass is not desired. Each vase (but for the first pictured, which is taller) has an opening that measures 3.5 inches and stands 8 inches tall. A variety of materials are used, including Merino, Blue Faced Leicester, Corriedale, Rambouillet Cross and Finn wools, and Silk. Each vase is one of a kind. Vases can be purchased in the Melasdesign Etsy shop:

This collection is a study in color and materials. I was fascinated by the thought that such a basic form could be varied in so many ways. To a great extent, I composed my own color mixtures by making wool batt. It was a great experience seeing just how the different types of wool behaved, creating textures unique to each type. Others were shibori dyed for visual texture,  also a new experience - my "at home" dye process. It was also a lot of fun seeing how colors that were placed over a flat resist gained a life of their own when formed into to the 3D vessel structure.  (Cont'd.) 

Why vases? I wanted to refine my technique for making vessels and wanted the challenge of making a consistent product using the same basic form for each item. I decided to do vases with glass interiors, rather than just plain vessels, for the sheer utilitarianism of the item. A vessel is faced with the limitation that it either works solo, with no contents, or needs to be filled with a solid core of some sort, unless dry materials are used. I thought I would bypass this issue by making felted items that could be used with everything. These vases make great gifts - perfect for a small bouquet or bunch of flowers on Mother's Day - or as a wonderful housewarming gift.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Right Jacket - an Adventure in Nuno-felt

It's been a while since I posted my last blog entry, but don't worry, I've been busy. One thing I've been working on is a collection of vases, which can be found on my Etsy site, but which I'm saving for my next blog entry. The big project I've been working on is this jacket, a reversible Nuno-felted product that required no sewing, designed, dyed, and felted by me.

Reversible Jacket Side One

Reversible Jacket Side Two

This project was a lot of fun, and a lot of work, but the process is getting quicker each time I do a new nuno-felted project. The big challenge of this jacket was to use shibori dyeing to create visual texture, and to experiment with layering thin silks and having them still function with the nuno-felting technique. Another aspect of the project was the shibori-dyeing and degumming itself. This was a first time venture with this garment design, and I started by getting set up to dye at home as well as at the school studio. 

As you can see I had a good time with it. There were lots of different silks to choose from and the woven textures (such as seer-sucker,  habotai, and chiffon) greatly helped to mix up the design and keep it visually interesting. Obviously I decided I wanted a green jacket, but I decided to experiment with different greens, offset by black and the occasional blue. The addition of silk with highlighted squares of a different fiber was the final touch the visual texture. My layout of the wool covered almost two tables of space before felting. I did the dyeing before the layout, and didn't really have a master plan when I dyed the separate pieces. I wanted a random element. I set up the dye bath and went to town. 

Once I got my silks dyed, I played around with layout.  I just used my living room floor, as shown. The dog had a great time walking over it. I was just sad she didn't have a way to leave black paw prints. As a dog lover, this would have been the perfect thing. Maybe next project. I dyed so much silk I ended up having enough for a reversible jacket, which was just fine for me. There are times when the more subdued side will be more appropriate than the side with all the white squares. Then it was time to lay the project out, and felt.

In Philadelphia's Magic Garden 

Trying Out Layouts

Fulling was an interesting process. It took about four cycles of fulling before the entire shrinkage was achieved. Thank goodness there is a nice laundry spinner at the studio. When everything started looking right, all that was left to do was cutting the armholes. This has been the first time that I got my nerve up to cut the holes on my own. Is a very daunting process, but it went fine. I didn't even have to reinforce the armholes with thread, I just healed the edges in.

As far as dyeing goes, I decided to use Lanaset dyes. It was a learning process getting chartreuse mixed from turquise blue and yellow. After several trues I got it right. I had gotten it in my head that I wanted to crockpot dye, but it really didn't end up being practical. I went ahead and got a big pot for the kitchen stove. I was a little nervous about making the kitchen more colorful than it initially was. The process did not end up being messy. I went ahead and did the long dyeing process where are you let the fiber warm up,  simmer, and cool down completely before taking it out of the dye bath. I used to separate dye baths, one black and another that started is green and then worked into blue.

Yayy! Chartreuse! 

So what do you think? I'm pretty happy with the end product and look forward to making more garments.