Emma Melville Tried & True

  • Tauira / Student
    Emma Melville
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Kim Meek, George Hajian, Phoebe Ellis

"Tried & True" is a memoir of family heritage, compiled in the form of a recipe collection. It is an embodiment of my family's approach to food that reflects values of hospitality, generosity, and gathering. Family stories and imagery are woven through the recipes. It is a testament to their lives and the preservation of history for the next generation.

As a young designer, I began to question how a designer’s personal and professional identity influences practice. Designers often develop a signature style that can be attributed to their personality and experiences. This sparked an inquiry into my heritage and what has been important to me as a designer, particularly my upbringing and family history.

Acknowledging these aspects of my identity, this collection is a homage through a recipe compilation. "Tried & True" sits in the space between a cookery resource and a family archive. It intends to capture and preserve my family history in the form of a publication. It brings together recipes, photographs and stories into a distilled form that acts as a keepsake.

Gathering and organising content has been a large part of this project. The recipes have been pieced together from typewritten family notebooks. An important part of "Tried & True" is the intertwined family stories within the recipes. It creates a sense of place and connects them to the time when these recipes were created and their significance to the family.

"Tried & True" is formed around my mother’s family. Her family grew up in rural Southland, where it is beautiful but rugged and remote. A lot of their produce came from the land and they made do with what they had. The name itself encompasses the family's love of comfort food and failsafe recipes. I intended to capture the authenticity through the deep neutral shades and the typography that evokes traditional forms.

The stories are told through words as well as imagery. By weaving these through the pages, the publication aims to be more than a recipe book. Historic family photos add to the heritage feel and correspond to the recipes. A thread of time has been created through the publication that travels from past to present. Each recipe section represents a period of history, and the audience experiences the lives of generations growing up as "Tried & True" develops. I recreated the ring binder to capture a sense of narrative that traverses from the old family recipe folders. I worked in both the bindery and the laser cutting workshops to personally handcraft the case. It creates a space where recipes are fluid and can be removed or added. The design is consistent with archiving and preserving history—the central theme of my publication. It allows for growth and adaptation as the recipes are passed down to future generations.