Get to know one of our Girlboss Foundation Grant Recipients: April Melchior!
Hi April! Where did you grow up? How did it shape who you are/the work you do today?
Hi! I grew up in Aston, PA .. a small boring suburb of Philadelphia. As a kid I knew I wanted to move to the city. I was obsessed with the big buildings and how everything was within walking distance. My favorite children's book was called “April's Kittens'' by Clare Turlay Newberry. It's a story of a little girl named April who lived in a big city with her kitties. I wanted to be just like her. I now live in Philly, with my two cats (Kit-kat and Ninja), and I get to draw the big buildings and urban life that I was so enamored with as a child.
Did you go to college? If so, where did you study and what did you get out the process?
Yes! I attended University of the Arts and graduated in 2012 with a BFA in Illustration. It was an intense learning period for me, not just as an artist but as a person. As an artist I was able to greatly refine my skills as an illustrator. I was also exposed to tons of other processes which informed how I make art today, such as stained glass, etching and printmaking, and 3D mediums such as mold making. Personally, I grew up a great deal, I was able to reflect on my past and really explore who I was, which plays an important role in where I am now.
Who was your hero or greatest inspiration growing up?
When I first got serious about art, I was all about Dave McKean, an illustrator and artist best known for his cover work on Neil Gaimen's graphic novel series The Sandman. Graphic novels were a big part of my teen years. He used a lot of ink and mixed media/collage type stuff. I hung onto that, a lot of my work uses ink and collage.
What inspires you now?
Watching Ted talks are great for inspiration, also the NPR show This American life. I like learning from people who can offer me new perspective based on their own experiences...from brilliant mastermind Elon Musk to a random Instagram user.
How did the idea for Urban Works Textiles come about?
When I was in college, I taught myself how to sew as a hobby. Following graduation, I quickly realized that the Freelance Illustration career path was not for me. When I found I could do both sew and draw by having my drawings printed on fabric, I ordered up 20 yards of my designs. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do with the fabric yet, but I knew it would be called 'Urban Works Textiles'. I put together a quick Etsy shop to start, and in just two weeks I had my first sale!
How did you develop the idea into a business?
After I got my first sale on Etsy, I worked on brand awareness and refining things like sourcing materials and production speed. I had my first craft show three months after opening shop and that's when I finally was able to gauge what was working and what wasn't with my products. For the first 6 months, I was working out of my 400sq ft apartment, with my two cats... which was horrifying. I moved Urban Works Textiles into my first location in January 2014 and have since expanded once more to my current location. I now have a part-time seamstress to help with production. I landed my first store just before one year of business in May 2014, and have now had products in eight stores total!
What advice would you give to girls who want to do your job?
Fearlessness is not part of the process. Being scared and having doubts along the way are normal, and expected. I've had PLENTY of them, and if anyone says they don't have any, they're full of it! Don't let your fears stop you from trying something, just go for it.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
To quit my day job! I resisted this with some force, but once I finally gave it up, I lived & breathed UWT. Also, I guess it's not so much advice but I'd say the most valuable thing I've ever gotten was encouragement. Without someone pushing me along and telling me that yes, I CAN do it, I'm not sure that I would have the confidence to keep it up.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not working?
Riding ATVs & dirt bikes, and also thrift store shopping!
What are you planning next?
The GirlBoss grant enables me to get a fabric printer, so that is a big leap for UWT which promises lots of exciting things, like new designs and even new fabric choices! I'm really stoked for that. I'm also planning to get UWT it's own e-commerce page in addition to my Etsy shop.