Meet the Maker: Lydia Meiying
Lydia Meiying is an illustrator based in Manchester who creates decorative designs inspired by the natural world and the colours, prints and folklore of her South East Asian heritage. An avid collector of vintage botanical prints, many of her illustrations are reminiscent of natural history books and, like her predecessors, Lydia’s drawings always with a hand-drawn sketch. We caught up with Lydia to learn more about her passion for pattern and her commission for Manchester museums and galleries.
South East Asia has to be my all-time favourite place to travel – it’s such an inspiring place with so much interesting architecture, wildlife, history and folklore.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?
Hello! My name is Lydia Meiying and I am an illustrator and surface pattern designer based in Manchester. I create colourful designs inspired by design history and the natural world.
Can you describe your style in three words?
Decorative, patterned and playful.
I’ve worked in various design studios, creating fashion fabrics, patterns for home furnishings and stationery.
Tell us about your background…
I grew up in a very creative household and was always encouraged to draw and explore different materials. One of my earliest memories was playing with a set of animal picture stamps where I would sit for hours covering whole sheets of paper with smudgy images of zoo animals. I guess you could say they were my very first repeat patterns! As I grew up, my interest in art and design never wavered. I eventually went on to study Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds Collage of Art and graduated in 2008 with a First Class BA Honours Degree. Since then, I’ve worked in various design studios, creating fashion fabrics, patterns for home furnishings and stationery.
One of my earliest memories is covering whole sheets of paper with smudgy images of animal stamps. I guess you could say they were my very first repeat patterns!
When did you start selling your own prints and illustrations?
I began by re-working a few of the designs I created at university back in 2009 as greetings cards and selling them online. I still remember my first sale and how exciting it was that someone had bought one of my designs. After working for a couple of years in the design industry I was able to gradually build up my product range, creating more of my own designs for greetings cards, notebooks and prints. I invested the money I made back into my studio, purchasing much-needed equipment, which means I can make the majority of my items myself and all other items can be outsourced to other small UK businesses.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I get inspiration from everywhere. I love history, literature and poetry. I find children’s stories a huge inspiration for my designs. I’m an avid collector of vintage natural history books and botanical prints and I have a huge collection of vintage fabric scraps, postcards, magazine and old birthday cards I’ve found and kept over the years. I just love to collect interesting things and try to give them a new life by working them into my design as much as I can.
I always start a design by hand, sketching out all the individual elements in pen and pencil and working over the top with watercolour and ink.
How do you start a design? Can you talk us through your creative process?
I always start a design by hand, sketching out all the individual elements in pen and pencil and working over the top with watercolour and ink. It helps me understand the composition and whether it will have the desired effect as a repeat. Although my designs are arranged and finished in Photoshop and Illustrator, I still want to keep some of the hand-drawn quality and the slight imperfections in the final design.
If you could take your sketchbook anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you draw?
Being half Singaporean and growing up in Britain I spent a lot of years travelling backwards and forwards to Singapore to visit my extended family. South East Asia has to be my all-time favourite place to travel – it’s such an inspiring place with so much interesting architecture, wildlife, history and folklore. The diversity of the people, the food and culture, it’s so rich and vibrant. When I visit I always find myself sketching the details of patterns in the temples or photographing the glazed tiles covering the Peranakan district or snapping pictures of the tropical birds perched in the trees. The colours of South East Asian design are beautiful and their designs have so much meaning and symbolism, illustrating everything from the changes in the seasons to spiritual philosophies and folklore, there is so much to capture.
My studio is full of pattern, colour and bird prints.
Tell us about your studio space…
I’m lucky enough to have a studio in my house in the Manchester suburbs and it’s full of pattern, colour and bird prints.
Is the rest of your home as vibrant as your work?
My partner and I have recently bought our first house which we’re in the in the process of renovating. At the moment we’re living with a lot of bare plaster walls and boxes stacked floor to ceiling but we have big plans and want to create a few cosy, dramatic spaces with dark walls and colourful bold patterns inspired by the age of the house. We’re planning to decorate our guest room with one of my own wallpaper designs and I’ve already set to work creating new patterns to print on fabric for curtains and throw cushions. It’s very exciting.
I just love to collect interesting things and try to give them a new life by working them into my design as much as I can.
You also work as a freelance illustrator. What’s the most fun or exciting project you’ve worked on?
A fun freelance project I recently worked on was to design a range of patterns for the Greater Manchester Museum Group. I was asked to look at South East Asian designs and artefacts from the archives to inspire a bespoke collection of designs and original illustrations for gifts and stationery. It was such an exciting brief and the products were then sold in the gift shops of museums and galleries around Manchester and in their online store.
Use code February10 for 10% off all Lydia Meiying’s products until the end of February.
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