Monday, 24 August 2009

The View From the Shoe: Sarah E Melville

I didn't meet Sarah E Melville through twitter, but in the guise of @carlottafantino she is an active part of the twitter community. I actually met her as a writer, before discovering her talent for art. I liked her art so much I asked her to design the cover for my novel, Songs From the Other Side of the Wall, which you can see on the previous post.

So, what does Sarah do? (Sarah has asked em not to quote her verbatim because seh thinks what she says is too rambly. Personally, I like it, so it stays :-))

I am a writer of tragic, depressing, atmospheric literary novels set in the past or the post-apocalyptic future. Ninety percent of this work deals with the dark corners of human relationship, especially sexual relationships Also, I write weird stream-of-consciousness vignettes and poetry from the point of view of my alter ego, Paulie, a young man who is very much in love, but also very sad. His is the work in one of my current literary and artistic projects, Beautiful Things that happen to Ugly People.

I also make all kinds of art. I paint and draw and have an odd obsession with illuminated manuscripts and mediaeval and Byzantine art, as well as altered books. While portraiture is my favourite style of art, the art I actually do is quite different. Some of it's photo-realism, some of it I do with my left hand without any forethought, kind of like stream-of-consciousness painting, some of it's illustrations of things no one else knows about.

Mostly, though, I just draw naked people.

As a way to spread my love of vintage, I recently opened a vintage store on Etsy called Charlotte Fantino (another alter ego, though she makes films). I sell a little bit of my hand-embroidery there as well, though you're not likely to see much of it up at once as it takes hours upon hours to just embroider something, nevermind sewing it!

You can find me all over the place online,
AND I have a new writing blog, which is going to be insanely great. I have a bunch of stuff already written for it and I'm psyched. It's called S Melville

So, without further ado:

Louboutin or Converse?

I'm taking this question literally, and my answer is Louboutin. I've never really been into the Converse. They're sexy on indie guys, but not me. For not liking them much I do have two pair, though one is for work and the man makes me wear his kind of shoes. I've not worn them in over a year, which is really great because that means I'm free from the machine, but also sad because that means I'm poor.

Why is there no one in the world that does it quite like you?

Well, that's easy. Because there's no one else like me. Trite, but true! There are so many strange influences that make all of my work what it is -- from my love of dead languages to stormtroopers, platform heels to the Tudor dynasty -- it all amalgamates into this very odd world that has notes and tints from everywhere. I think that's why it's so different, and so hard for me to explain.

What do you really, really love about it?

I love the freedom of having so many different outlets, and the freedom I give myself to be contradictory and go in opposite directions. For instance, my favourite art form is classic portraiture (think Gainsborough), and my goal is to someday be able to paint like that. But I'm not afraid to I let myself embrace whatever it is I feel like doing, whether it's making paintings and drawings with my left hand (my natural's my right) that look like they were drawn by monkeys, or spending my creative coins on historical embroidery.

If I stayed within the parameters set on me by any title -- painter or literary fiction writer or college student, even -- I'd do nothing but freeze up when these glittering impulses from outside the supported realm pop up. I wouldn't get anything done. For instance, I've been a prose writer and poetry hater all my life, but in this past month I've started seriously writing poetry. I could've held on to my disdain for poetry and self-imposed label of Fiction Writer, but why would I deny myself the experience of poetry? Do you know what I mean?

The most important thing, I find, and this goes beyond the creative world, is allowing yourself to be free and expressive in any way that strikes you.

Remember, you learn the rules only so you know how to best break them!

A bit more time in the day, or a bit more money in the bank?

Oh, I couldn't have any more time in the day. I don't work, and though I do go to college, it's a very laid-back sort of thing. I've had all 24 hours to myself, and I'm less productive than if I have other things going on. The lack of money is just a lack of means -- not in writing, of course, but certainly in art. I've not had certain essential supplies in months, which is why I haven't painted in so long.

Imagine you "make it". You wake up and imagine the day ahead. Tell us about breakfast.

I don't see too many things changing as a result of any sort of success. Yes, I will still eat breakfast and it will still probably be chocolate whipped yoghurt.

What's your Jimmy Choo? and what's just Cobblers?

Literally, my Jimmy Choos are Betsey Johnsons (sorry Jimmy, you're not my favourite flavour) and my cobblers are . . . goodness, what are the lowest of the low-end I own? How about those slippers I inherited from my little brother when he outgrew them? They're too small for me, but I don't care. They're comfortable and, well, I do what I want.

Metaphorically, Jimmy Choo would be Lady Chatterley's Lover; something absolutely adored and dreamt about. Cobblers would be? Well, I could go at this from a lot of angles: cheap, only used around the house, not anything worth looking at, the bottom o' the barrel . . . how about a dish sponge? Then again, if we are looking at cobblers from the 'often used' point of view, it would still be Lady Chatterley's Lover. It's the best piece of fiction ever written. Now there's a man who was free.

Tell us about the last time a fan made you feel 100 feet tall.

Hmm, my fan-base is a little sparse. But everything you do really makes me feel good. I think it was when you asked me to design a book cover for Songs -- that was the best thing that's happened to me so far, fan-wise, art-wise [ed: *blushes deeply*].

For my writing, it was a true highlight when someone started a thread praising my collection Husbands and Portraits of their Wives on a writing site that shall go unnamed. I've copied-pasted all the comments for when I'm down. It really made me feel grand for a few days.

Independent and poor, or under contract and rich?

Uhm, this is hard. I'm going to say . . . goodness, I don't know. Half of me wants to be rich and half of me wants to be free. I'm going to go with independent and poor.

Do you remember that bit on Play Away where Brian Cant stood behind people and did the actions whilst they spoke? If you could choose anyone to stand behind you and do the actions to your sales pitch, who would it be and why?

Okay, so I've thought about this one long and hard, and my choice is the Gorillaz (that's Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett &co.) Man, that would be nuts! I was totally obsessed with them in high school. I'd have Damon write a song about me or my art or whatever, and I'd get a small melodica part, all toot-toot-too!, and Passion Pictures would put together this insane music-video thing that'd be playing on a huge screen behind us, and it would be my work and Jamie Hewlett's work mashed together with zombies and thigh high stockings and Murdoc Niccals everywhere. And Damon would be singing in falsetto and then Daft Punk would smash in through the wall with an insane techno bridge, and -- shi-zam!Nuts, man! Read my freaking books!

Frocks or socks?

Frocks, no hesitation. "Thou shalt not eat the fruit of the sock tree"


  1. Oh how I enjoyed this - lots of links to follow I shall enjoy stalking you :-) (It's ok, I'm like the earth...mostly harmless)

  2. It's OK, NK - I think Sarah's already following you on twitter so she got the stalking in first.

    I'm constantly amazed and delighted just what's out there. Am thinking there have been so many amazing people already through this column (and no sign of let up or repetition), at some stage I'd like to do an e-book/catalogue full of pics as well as the interview text from anyone who agrees to it. What do you think? Maybe it would be a good adjunct to Free-e-day? Or just a celebration of creative twitter.

  3. I think that'd be a swell e-day idea. I'm still trying to sort out what I'm personally going to do for that. I had this great idea, but it's not panning out.

    Niftyknits, I'll give you a guide to stalking me!
    if you want to stalk me and my artwork, the best place to do that is . . . well, you can pick my personal blog (s-melville.blogspot), though I've not posted in a while, or my deviantart, though you need a deviant account to see all of it. Some of it's 'mature content' because there are naked people. The deviant community starts at 13, so they like to protect the little ones.

    But your best bet is following my writing blog. I don't know if you're into writing, but it's a pretty nifty place so far. I'm seriously pumped.

  4. Wow, Sarah. I always wondered why I couldn't see some of your pics.

  5. So you've only actually seen about half of my art work! That's sad. The naked ones are the only ones worth looking at!

  6. Guess I'll have to get an account. Then I might have to start putting up my own efforts. Hmm. Maybe I should spare the world!

    I now have a vision of Tom of Finland, only with medieval-scripted tattoos!

    There are some seriously big debates going on at the moment about book covers. Timing could be very good for you!

  7. please please please make a deviant account! It would be amazing.