Q + A with Designer Shelda Edwards

Tell us about the Legend of Shelda studio. What does this space help cultivate? How does it define you? When did you start it?

When it comes to marketing yourself it’s important to create a brand. Unlike those who create under an alias, I wanted something that was undeniably me. I started throwing around the name as a brand for myself in 2015 shortly after graduating from Memphis College of Art. I wanted something that felt the most me and gave my audience a notion of the kinds of interests I might be into. Obviously, nerd stuff.

Though I’ve been freelancing on the side for some time, I only just went full-time freelance in January of this year. For me creating is an impulse, I don’t know any other way.I love to problem solve with design and working under a company gave me the experience I needed to do it on my own. I knew I wanted to be more involved in projects. Taking over my own career has not only given me a sense of peace on a day to day basis, it
has given me the space to explore in ways a full-time agency doesn’t.

How have your nerdiest interests influenced your work? You’ve made books that look like Game Boys before and your style has a zippy retro arcade feeling. Where does all that come from?

As you might be able to tell from my handle (Legend of Shelda), video games have played a big part in my life. For years I have introduced myself as, “Shelda, sounds like ‘Zelda’ but with a Sh” and learned it was a great anecdote for remembering my unique name. Video games aren’t my only interest, I’m also a huge fangirl for anything fantasy or science fiction. Truthfully, the more magic the more I’m interested. Beyond genre, my nerdiness intersects in comic books/ mangas, anime/animation, and the occasional dabble into table-top RPG (role playing game).

What does queerness and queer culture within design mean to you? (Have you found that there is a lack of queer representation in design?)

Queer people are being celebrated just as much as they are being damned these days. The lack of representation reflects that of many other marginalized communities where barriers have also been built. I think the more queer people we get in public-facing spaces like graphic design, the more we can tell our stories and share the spotlight with those who haven’t typically gotten to be on stage. Everyone deserves good design in their lives.

You work as a show producer now as well as a freelance graphic designer, how do you feel about your career compared to days before the pandemic? How have you used your talents in unexpected ways over the past couple of years?

To be honest, this was always my goal. I wanted to freelance for myself pre-pandemic and all that did was give me the opportunity to learn how to work from home while still having the stability of a full- time position.

My knack for looking at the whole picture was more than helpful when it came to co-producing Rainbow Rumble alongside drag performer, and long time friend, Moth Moth Moth. Pre-shutdown I partnered with the late, Memphis- famous Lisa Michaels on many of her variety shows and comedy nights. Lisa gave me the reins to take her idea and run with it. I could see something bigger on the horizon, and I knew how to get there. Without her influence I wouldn’t be collaborating outside of my space as a visual artist and creating experiences for others to enjoy.

You are known around town for your funky hairstyles, what kind of anime hair are you dreaming of next?

As much as my hairdresser might complain, I might be ready to give my hair a rest and let my natural hair come through. But then again, this Lisa Frank/ Rainbow Bright combo is my favorite form of expression right now. It’s honestly a mystery to me too.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in freelance design?

Find your community, they will be your biggest supporters. Show work that you want to be hired for. Letting people know that you’re available is just as important as letting them know what you want to be paid for. Remember, the end result of whatever design you make might not and probably should not look like the initial sketch. Research is your friend; using real life influences in your work will help people connect with your creations. Graphic design is everywhere and in every part of life so there is no shortage in need, you just have to put yourself out there.

Where can people find you? What’s next for Legend of Shelda?

I have a few things on the horizon coming over the next couple months! Catch me in Artist Alley during the Memphis Comic Expo on September 24th & 25th. This will be my first time tabling a comic convention too! Then followed closely behind by the online pop-up market, Monster Market during the month of October where I’ll be launching Halloween- specific merchandise. Otherwise catch me at my monthly show with Moth Moth Moth working Rainbow Rumble and experience a drag competition like nowhere else in Memphis. If you’re a true fan of my work, join my Patreon for behind-the-scenes looks, upcoming work previews, downloadable content, snail mail, and more!

Follow Shelda on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter @legendofshelda.