Melinda Young

Contemporary craft artist Melinda Young is based in Sydney. She thinks the pandemic brings on overwhelming uncertainty. Coping with the stress under isolation, Mel aims to express her feelings intuitively. The journal is a stream of consciousness response to the Design|Isolate project.   

“The pandemic for me has been all about the line. The chart. The graph. The pulse, my pulse, your pulse, our pulse”

We asked Mel three questions about her experience of isolation, completing this journal and her hope for the future. These are her responses: 

Describe the experience of the period of isolation for you. 

The isolation period (and the weeks before it), were at times not unlike the stressful, anxious rollercoaster of new parenthood. I frequently found myself describing it at the time as being like “having a new-born all over again”. I think I came upon this way of describing it as it was such a time of unknowns, absolute unknowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns... 
The period was one of intense stress for my partner who worked long hours in essential retail. I felt the sadness of many longstanding and hard worked on projects being either cancelled or postponed. Instead of undertaking a period of intense research and making I found myself solo parenting and home schooling. It was utterly exhausting for us, as it was for everyone. Computer fatigue was (and is still) real – Zoom, zoom, zoom… course re-writes, the anxiety of trying to visualise how to teach making online (which has actually in reality become a great joy and period of creative discovery). 
It was also by contrast a period of great loveliness, stillness, peace. I acknowledge that this is absolutely because of privilege. We live near the ocean, which became our place of escape and solace. We have a home, a supportive community, our income loss was moderate, we have only one child to home school, we and our families are well… 
2020 has become about finding the silver linings and discovering that these are many and varied. Just like the early, dark days of fresh parenting, the bad times are slipping from my memory and I’m holding the good things close, continuing to find them in the most unexpected places. 
Taking part in this, and other Covid-19 related creative projects, has been a really positive way to work through the impact of the pandemic. I feel deep gratitude for the opportunities that have been offered.   

What does your book represent and how did you approach the challenge?

The book represents the lines of Covid-19. The endless graphs in the media, my high blood pressure reads and quickened pulse at the beginning, through to the lines of the ocean waves, the line of the horizon, the curve flattened, rising, the lines at the supermarket and Centrelink... The absence of lines of traffic… 
I approached the challenge intuitively, allowing the notebook to tell me what it wanted to be, page by page, day by day. It became a meditation, I drew the lines as they came – working through the emotions in the movement of the pen across paper, page after page. Taking pleasure in mark making and colour. The accompanying text is a stream of consciousness, thoughts about the period – a kind of narrative to match the lines. In my making practice I found myself mapping the tideline, mapping the lines of debris washed up by the ocean the traces of waves on the sand, these lines have found their way into the book as well.

What do you hope will change in Australia as a result of the pandemic? 

I hope that the absolute starkness of inequality in our society that Covid-19 has laid bare will be addressed in a meaningful way at all levels of governance. I hope we will become kinder, more resourceful and patient with each other, that there is a greater appreciation of community, care and the benefits of slowness. 

Melinda Young is a contemporary craft artist whose practice spans jewellery, textiles, installation and interactive public art projects. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally, participating in over 200 group exhibitions since 1997, her work is held in public collections and included in numerous publications.
Melinda’s practice primarily engages with the idea of ‘place’ and explorations of materiality, with an emphasis on found or re-purposed materials as vehicles for narrative explorations of the landscape and the people who inhabit it.
Alongside her making practice, Melinda has spent the past 20 years working within the contemporary craft and design field as an educator, curator and gallery manager. Melinda is currently an Associate Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design and undertaking a cross-disciplinary PhD at the Australian Centre for Culture Environment Society and Space, University of Wollongong.


View Melinda Young's journal here:

Image: Melinda Young, Design/Isolate Journal (detail), 2020.