David Melancon took his love for travel and talent for photography to start his business of selling location based photography on stone coasters and mugs with Exit 82 Art.
Tell us a little about you and what you do.
After having a little success, I began photographing local landmarks in south Louisiana, and that’s when things really began to pick up. At this point I was only selling my work at local festivals and craft shows, but I knew that I could expand my business by offering my work to retail outlets. So in 2007, I moved to Austin, and immediately began trying to get my work into stores, as well as selling on the weekends at an art market on South Congress.
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My name is David Melancon, and I am the owner and founder of Exit 82 ART. I started my business in south Louisiana in 2004 after returning from a 3 month backpacking trip across western Europe. I began selling images from my travels on stone drink coasters as a way of getting my work out to people on a functional product.
Fast forward 8 years, we are now in stores nationwide including Whole Foods. We have been a part of Austin City Limits for the past 8 years, as well as the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. In addition to the stone drink coasters, we now also offer any of our 4000+ images on ceramic mugs, tempered glass cutting boards, and photo magnets. We also do custom work for corporate gatherings, weddings, etc.
How did you come about creating a broad variety of products to highlight your photography?
Initially I only made stone drink coasters, but after a few years, I decided to expand the product line in order to give our customers more options. I always try to make new items as functional as possible. We are always trying out new products. Some work and some don’t, so it’s a lot of trial and error.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by travel. I always have been since I was very young. I try to shoot at least 2-3 new locations each year. I love things that evoke a sense of nostalgia. I think when people buy our products, they aren’t just buying a stone drink coaster, for instance, but rather, they are buying a memory. Being able to travel to new locations to pursue my passion for photography is by far the best perk of the job.
What other hobbies do you have?
In addition to photography, I also love to run. I started running again about a year ago when I turned 39, after taking about a 20 year break. I now run about 40 miles a week and I will probably keep on running as long as my body will allow me. I also enjoy playing the acoustic guitar, reading, and watching documentaries.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My mom would always tell me, “You can do anything you want in life if you put your mind to it.” And I could tell by the way she would say it that she meant it. So I never allowed myself to become pigeon-holed into any career. I went to college and studied Zoology, ended up going to flight school and working as pilot for 10 years, and now I’m a travel photographer. Who knows what will be next?
You can find Exit 82 at:
Interview published August, 2015
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