Student Profile – Textile Design, Melanie Kay

Melanie Kay exhibited her award-winning work at New Designers in London this year.

Melanie experiments with textile techniques including print and embroidery in combination with processes such as sanding and punching on a non-textile surface. In the work featured in this post, she has used beer cans, translucent metal paints and embroidery threads. Her website is



AVA: Where did you study?

MK: University of Bolton, UK.


AVA: What would you say was the most interesting or enjoyable part of the course you studied?

MK: I loved the freedom to be experiment and try new things. I was introduced to new drawing styles and techniques which consequently enabled me to recognise my own individual style and discover what it was that I really loved to do. I also got an understanding of where my strengths were and how I could use them to my advantage.


Floral beer cans pattern Melanie Kay


AVA: What was your most interesting or memorable experience during your course?

MK: In my last year at university I won first prize for a material constructed by non conventional means from the Bradford Textile Society as well as the Première Vision Award and it felt amazing. It was so good to receive recognition outside of the university but equally as good that we entered the competition as part of our course.


AVA: What inspires your work?

MK: I am inspired by things that I read and hear as well as the things that I see and so I often carry out academic research as well as visual research. My current work highlights social issues related to alcohol abuse. I have looked at the media’s interpretation of this, academic theory as well as personal experience.


Melanie Kay lampshade close up


AVA: Who is the biggest influence on your work and why?

MK: I love Grayson Perry and the way he creates vases that appear beautiful and lure the viewer in but contain a more sinister message on closer inspection (see some of his vases on the Saatchi Gallery website). I like the fact that his work has meaning, tells a story or gives a message. Yinka Shonibare is another one of my favourites.


AVA: Which piece out of all of your work best represents your overall collection and why?

MK: I think the big lampshade with the tassels best represents my overall collection. It took the longest amount of time to make as well as being the most challenging. I like people to see the time I invest in my work when they look at it. The tassels are made completely from beer cans and contain approx 5400 individually hand punched pieces. I love hand techniques and I like these to be apparent in my work – I am quite meticulous and I think it shows.


Melanie Kay's tasselled lampshade


AVA: What kind of materials do you use in your work and why?

MK: I use beer cans as a surface and I stumbled across this idea whilst doing some research into gender studies as it is something that is stereotypically associated with the male. This idea then developed and I began to research communication through art and manipulate the message that the can portrayed by adding other imagery to it.


AVA: If you could describe your design style in five words what would they be?



AVA: What kind of advice would you offer to someone interested in design?

MK: Don’t pigeonhole yourself and don’t be afraid to try new things. When things go wrong you haven’t failed – you know what doesn’t work and are closer to finding out what does.


Melanie Kay's smaller lampshade


AVA: What are you currently working on now you have graduated?

MK: I am currently working on a two month contract as an Assistant Buyer. I have my own studio where I will be working on a part-time basis and intend on doing a Research Masters in Design and Materials starting in September.


AVA: What are your hopes for your future career?

MK: I have made some contacts from my degree show and from New Designers and hopefully they will open some doors for me. I hope that I can make money doing what I love. I will keep working hard and I am sure everything will fall into place.



Visit Melanie’s website to see more examples of her work. Since New Designers she been contacted by the Embroiderers Guild and they have chosen her to take part in the graduate showcase at the Knitting and Stitching show in London, Dublin and Harrogate. She also has a blog.

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