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Meet March's Featured Designer: Melissa Jane Hyatt

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a surface designer.In high school I wasn’t even sure I wanted to attend art school. So, I decided to apply to a big university that had a good art department in case I changed my mind. I got into the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University and decided to attend. As a freshman, you take basic core classes, figure drawing, basic design, color, and art history. Then, at the end of your freshman year, you apply to the department that you want to major in. I thought that I wanted to be an advertising design major, but my design professor pulled me aside and said “You have such a great sense of color. I really think that you should apply to the surface pattern design program”. I told her “I don’t know even what that is”! So I went to the department to explore it, applied, and I got in! I quickly fell in love with surface pattern design.

What influences your art the most? The things that influence my art the most are walks in nature with my dog April. travel, magazines, and going to museums .

What mediums do you use to create your art? I am a watercolor artist. I will use some colored pencil, watercolor pencils, and gouache as well. Recently, I’ve been using pen and ink and loving it!

You worked for many years in the private sector as a design director at Waverly Fabrics before starting your own design business. What made you want to go out on your own?My job at Waverly was my dream job. I was pregnant with my first son and had to make the decision of keeping my job, that required a lot traveling, or taking care of my son. I chose to raise my kids and go back to freelancing. No regrets. It was a great decision!

You have had some wonderful licensing opportunities. Do you work with a licensing agent or do you approach companies on your own?I approach companies on my own, and I have done several trade shows where I’ve met new clients. I have thought about getting an agent and possibly will in the future.

You have exhibited at print trade shows in the past. Tell us about your experience being an exhibitor.I’ve had some really wonderful experiences exhibiting a trade shows. In 2017. I did my first Blueprint show in New York City. That opened the door for me and got me in front of some companies that I’ve gone onto license and to collaborate for. I love the opportunity to meet people face-to-face and form relationships. I think it’s really important. It’s very difficult to just rely on emailing to build a foundation. I’m very happy that trade shows are happening again after the pandemic shut them down. I am exhibiting at my 5th trade show this May. It’s calledSurtexand I will be there with my art collectivePicnic Art Co.

In addition to licensing your artwork, do you have any other streams of income that are art related?I have quite a few streams of income. I am a design consultant with a major fabric company. I do commission work. I sell giclee prints and notecards of my artwork wholesale and on my website. My fabric is also available onSpoonflower. I am a watercolor instructor andSkillshareteacher. In fact, I’ve just launched a new watercolor class! Learn my 12 essential tools to improve your watercolor practice. Check it out!

Would you like to share any advice you have for designers who are considering licensing their artwork?I’d like to share that you really need to do your homework! Do lots of research and find companies that fit your style. Pitch on a regular basis and get ready for a lot of "no’s” before you get that “yes”!

What's next for you in your artistic endeavors? Are there any other companies or designers you would like to collaborate with?My focus right now is building an online platform for my teaching and classes. Finding my way back to watercolor and painting really changed my life for the better and I want to share that with as many people as possible. I’m expanding my class offerings onSkillshare.comand I teach private classes and am looking to expand all of that in the future. I’m looking to find a fabric company that I can collaborate with to create licensed collections with my art. I want to keep learning and growing in this business that I love!

@melissajanehyatt on Instagram

@picnicartco my collective with 3 other dynamic surface pattern designers!

Skillshare 30 day free trial and link to my new class-


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