Going global works for artist Melanie after illness

Melanie Burnell
Melanie Burnell

An artist from Kensworth has overcome serious illness and time out from her career by helping launch a unique global directory of artists and their works.

Past business problems led to 32-year-old art gallery owner Melanie Burnell suffering ill health, but the invitation to co-launch the directory and get involved in recruiting and supporting new talent has helped get her back on track.

Melanie studied fine art, graphic design and photography at the Watford School of Art & Design and went on to work designing marketing materials and then in graphic design. After having her daughter, she branched out into painting and interior design work for domestic and commercial clients.

Then realising that there must be an alternative way of selling these pieces, other than through commercial galleries, Melanie set up her own directory-style gallery, renting out spaces to 15 artists so they could showcase their work. Everyone chipped in together and the artists received 100% of their sales.

The idea took off and Melanie moved into a larger studio, offering framing services, running workshops, a photography studio and exhibiting hundreds of works from local artists.

But when the business decided to develop their presence online by creating an online gallery for artists, the economic climate took a downturn and the venture got into trouble. As a result Mel anie became very ill.

She told the Gazette: “The whole period was a very stressful time and we were never able to capitalise on our ideas launching an online studio. We ran out of time and money.

“I was sad to lose my business in the way I did, but I used my recovery time to reflect on what I’d learned and about new technologies and digital media.”

Melanie had previously held exhibitions with another gallery owner, St Albans-based Jean Dennis, who had started work on a new project, to launch a global directory to promote artists. She was invited to become a partner in the venture and the pair have spent the past two years developing this unique directory of artists, Artists’ Info, which has helped Melanie find a new lease of life and purpose and put her back on the road to recovery.

“Fortunately I had experience of working with web designers to create a large art site, so that was very useful,” she said. “I designed the logo and came up with the strap line ‘From Painters to Potters, Silversmiths to Sculptors’ to promote the diverse range of art to be featured. We had a very clear vision of how the site should look and I used my Photoshop skills to do this.

“The site is now only second in Google under the Saatchi Gallery and is quickly establishing an international reputation for discovering and showcasing talented artists from across the UK and the world. It’s an incredibly exciting time for me and the opportunity has been great for me to get back into the world of art that I love and to grow my confidence again.”