Being one of Oprah’s Favorite Things is a hard act to follow. But Melissa is up to the challenge.
Wood is a graduate of Cornell College in Iowa, where she majored in English Lit, Art & History. Having zero career trajectory in mind, she took courses that made her happy. She did not explain this system to her parents. And paid the price later. She did, however, have one passion: it was Hollywood was buoyed by then-NBC President Brandon Tartikoff’s response to her earnest “in search of a career as a writer in Hollywood” letter, “That girl is going somewhere.” Right to the unemployment line.
Liberal Arts, not as alluring as other majors for job seekers in those halcyon days of 1982, found her operating an ancient Heidelberg letterpress for a bespoke line of stationery. Covered in ink colors of tangerine, lime, aubergine, ruby red, sterling grey and bluebell, she continued to send typewritten cover letters & resumes into the ether of no-reply-whatsoever (you missed out, Leo Burnett!)
With absolutely zero offers or job prospects, she leaped into graduate school. The School of The Art Institute & Harrington College of Design did the trick, netting her sturdy skills & a nifty career in Interior Architecture, Design & Space Planning. Shortly thereafter, marriage & baby sidelined the city office life for something akin to cottage industry when the birth announcement designed for #1 son hit the streets.
A boxed notecard dynasty was born.
Featured in House&Garden, Town&Country, InStyle, Lucky, New York Magazine, Country Living & more, the little notes boxed by hand in Melissa’s basement by big & little hands (the children were now 3, husband exited stage left) became a bit of a phenomenon.
Sold to Nordstrom, Neiman-Marcus Direct, stationery and retailers far & wide, George Lucas, Kyle Maclachlan, Eleanor Connelly, Peter Duchin, Vanessa Williams & a Hilton heiress, her little house was greeted often by a huge envelope delivery truck and daily 2:30 sharp pick up from Tom, the trusty UPS man, hauling cartons of packaged notes off for points hither and yon.
The cherry on the top? M Wood Studio notes were chosen as one of Oprah’s things of 1999. (Read more about THAT at her mwoodpen.com blog by clicking here.)
In 2008, after 18 straight years in the notecard business, she shifted her pen + creative energy to licensing & freelance design. To marvelous results!
Feathers in Melissa’s cap include illustrating three series of framed art prints at Crate&Barrel; four series of holiday bedding & home goods at Garnet Hill; framed art prints at Baker Furniture; graphic tees at Cracker Barrel & Cabela’s & humorous greeting cards at Recycled Paper Greetings & Trader Joe’s. She’s even seen her sketches atop Sperry Top-Siders.
Social media, incessant sketching, & blathering away on M Wood Pen caught the eye of a fabulous book editor, beginning a new phase of her patchwork career. Books illustrated so far include “The Architecture of the Cocktail”, “Citysketch New York”, “Citysketch Paris”, “Citysketch London”, “Ms. American Pie”, and “The Architecture of the Shot”.
Despite a dire case of wanderlust, she has lived in Chicago forever. Her three children loves-of-her life, are beyond wacky, cool, & smart.
Goofballs, entirely grown up and brilliant in their own right, they continue to both inspire and mock her: a delicious combination! Road trips with paper maps, anything Europe, books, foreign films, a good meal, awards season, music, family, and travel are what Melissa is all about. Oh, and hand-addressed notes, Harry Potter stamps, and a continued love for finding notes in her mailbox.
Over the nearly three decades of illustration and design, her passion for both old world sensibilities and the quickly fading retro world of her childhood are constantly ignited. She finds that the inspiring subjects of travel, transport, architecture, cultures, cuisine + history serve as souvenirs of the dappled sun-spotting, ticket-wielding, boarding pass printing, street wandering, vintage modes of transporting, culture immersing, map-reading, adventure-taking crème de la crème of the lives we all live & witness as best we can.
Sure, the gadgets are fun. Twitter is m’s new best friend, Instagram inspires always, and the zip flash ping of instant communication is both addictive and productive.
But, this life? The proof?
A studio brimming with paper, pens, paints, architectural tools and a drafting board; Colors popping from Prismacolors and paint tubes stacked inside of a red art school metal tackle box; Sketchpads and watermarked paper piles ready to soak in the ink of a brush, marker, pencil or pen; Sturdy file boxes archiving nearly 30 years worth of original art; An antique Prairie School desk that holds vintage paper maps on standby for research and inspiration; A vintage Tower Travel typewriter because why not?
And best of all, a creaky hinged, wooden wine crate stuffed with old ink-worn letters, sketches, fading photographs, and shelves brimming with dusty books and old diaries.