Inspiring : Frances Boyd {surface design}

It was at the suggestion of a friend that Frances Boyd fell into surface design.”She suggested that as I was good at drawing and useless at sewing to delve into the world of surface pattern.”


frances boyd 5

frances boyd 5


After graduating with a degree in Textile Design, Frances had a brief spell working in a fashion studio in New York. Then jam-packed full of energy and ideas to start her own studio, life had its own plans and she spent the next several years raising her three sons.

But now she’s ready again. She’s already had a few big wins; when exhibiting in Indigo Paris she was asked to do a commission for Christian Lacroix spring summer collection, and early this year her work was chosen by Quincy Lampshades to feature in their new Keppler lampshade collection.


Frances boyd

frances boyd


frances boyd 2

frances boyd 2


With a subdued palette and a style that is part hand drawn, part vector, she loves layering forms and using line to create texture. The landscape surrounding her home on the Isle of Man is a constant inspiration with its numerous beaches and its plentiful wildlife. But there’s also the local antique shop, and she loves “having a good rummage in a charity shop for some vintage fabric.” Camera and sketchbook are never too far away.

Frances’s best friend Susan from The Print Tree is her business mentor and inspiration. “She has been instrumental in me following my dream to design; giving me a little kick up the bum every now and then when I think I can’t do something!”


frances boyd - floral bird

frances boyd – floral bird


frances boyd - Gigantic Floral sketch

frances boyd – Gigantic Floral sketch


Her favourite piece of advice is an oldie but a goodie, and came via one of her university professors who wrote on one of her life drawing sketches.


“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”


“I have the drawing pinned up on my studio wall so I can see it every day when I sit down to work.”


You can find more of Frances’s work on her own website,


Inspiring : karoArt {ceramics}

“Karolina Grudniewska discovered ceramics almost by accident. It all began one Christmas when she found two bags of clay under the Xmas Tree… and once she started playing with it she could not stop.” So begins karoArt’s introduction to her Etsy shop.


karoArt - fruit platter

karoArt – fruit platter


karoArt - tweet bowls

karoArt – tweet bowls


Karolina (Karo) moved from Poland to Ireland after a convoluted career path involving starting but not finishing a degree in Graphic Arts, and then completing a BA in English and teaching in Poland. She has now made her home in Dublin for more than a decade.

The bags of clay were given to her by her partner Jacek, who understood her need for a creative outlet after years of being a slave to the “job and school race”, teaching English and then moving to Ireland to work as a florist doing corporate arrangements. After going back to uni to study Interior Architecture, she set up her own freelance interior design business focusing on eco-friendly design solutions, but it still wasn’t enough. Colour, form and texture needed to have a more immediate and practical focus in her life, and discovering clay was an epiphany. Clay was the tactile, blank canvas for all the whimsy and and colour that was inside her.


karoArt - spiral platter

karoArt – spiral platter


Cat bowls feature fish and mice, fruit bowls come with bird tracks and  soap dishes are in the shape of clouds. She includes the curious and fun – handmade buttons, ornaments and tiles, as well as practical plates and cups. All her work is handformed and decorated with simple repetitive motifs, resulting in pieces that are wonderfully tactile and yet still have a lightness about them with their delicate decoration.


karoArt - cloud soap dish

karoArt – cloud soap dish


karoArt - bicycle plate

karoArt – bicycle plate


“I find working with clay very intuitive. Once you get the basics, there’s a world of possibilities in front of you. It takes hours and hours of practice, with many trials and many failures, but each broken piece teaches you a lesson. Practice and repetition brought me to proficiency, but I feel like I’m learning a new thing almost every day, and there’s still so much I’d like to discover and learn.”


Karo's studio

Karo’s studio


You can find more of Karo’s ceramics in her Etsy shop, karoArt.


Inspiring : Ali Benyon, surface design

“Not all who wander are lost.” It’s an appropriate quote for Ali Benyon, designer, maker, blogger and author. Originally from the UK, she started her career studying Textile Design at Loughborough University, and emerged 7 years later with a degree in Multi Media textiles. She spent a few years with her then boyfriend (now husband) travelling around Europe, and needing a break from creative life, she threw herself headlong into being an aerobics instructor, ending up working as a dance instructor and personal trainer.


ali benyon - flower power

ali benyon – flower power


After moving to Melbourne from the UK about a decade ago, her first few years were spent looking after their two small children, but about five years ago the creative urge bit her again and she started a small business called Cheeky Pickle creating stitched paper designs for children. After a few years and  some soul-searching, she returned to textiles and started in surface pattern design. Now she runs Ali Benyon Designs as a second business, which focuses on pattern.

Lots of hard work has landed her a licence with DENY Designs, Keka Cases and The World Art Group. She has also been featured on the Print and Pattern Blog  twice, and  was a finalist in the recent Robert Kaufman/Spoonflower competition.

And that’s not all. Ali also has a new book, Stitched Paper Art with C&T Publishing Group in the States, which focuses on my stitched paper work, and has launched her own self-published e-book “From Little Things”, packed with helpful advice and tips on how to run a successful creative business. AND she writes a popular blog too.


Ali Benyon - butterfly garden

Ali Benyon – butterfly garden


It was the AHA! moment she had after a trade show early last year that gave her the nudge back into textile design.

“After working solidly to prepare for the show and actually doing very well with regards to sales, I sat back on the last day of the show and decided that I really wasn’t working to my full potential.  I wasn’t proud of any of it and I knew I could do so much better. So about a week after returning from the show, I signed up to do a surface pattern design course, created a brand new business and literally started all over again! It was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’ve never looked back. I’m now working to my full potential, I’m proud of the work I produce and I’m so much happier.”


ali benyon - ditzy in blue

ali benyon – ditzy in blue


ali benyon - flowers

ali benyon – flowers


All her patterns are based around her own drawings, and inspiration comes from many sources – Lotta Jansdotter, Marimekko, and nature in all its infinite beauty.. She’s big on texture, and also incorporates paint, felt tip pens and crayons or whatever else takes her fancy at the time – toothbrushes, twigs, sponges, string… Colour is enormously important, and she usually has a palette picked out (often inspired by her favourite place to be – Pinterest ;) ) so she’s ready to go when her designs are translated into Illustrator.


ali benyon - POW

ali benyon – POW


ali benyon - geo 1-01-01

ali benyon – geo 1-01-01


Ali’s new e-book is the culmination of five years of writing about the ups and downs of small business on her blog. After spending lots of time on social media over the years, she soon realised that she was not alone with her “business fears, anxieties and constant obstacles. I was determined to find out the answers to all of our many burning questions; how does wholesale work? Which are the best selling platforms? How do other designers do their accounts? What happens at a trade show?”

“So five years on I have decided to put all of my experience and knowledge into one pot and write an e book to help the people just starting out in the creative business world, but also to help the more established designer to look at things from a different perspective.

“Once I started writing the book I found I couldn’t stop. You don’t realise how much you have learnt sometimes, until you physically stop and start to think about how far you’ve come. I felt I had so many tips and odd bits of advice to give on so many subjects that I just spilled it all out and held nothing back. So I’ve ended up talking about everything I know about being a small business owner; the ups, the downs, the many, many mistakes and the truly joyous moments.”


Ali's studio

Ali’s studio


Her best piece of advice?

“At 17 when I went for my interview for Art College, the teacher asked if my parents were supporting me in my art career. When I said no, he gave me these words of encouragement that I remember clearly to this day.“Look around you. Look at the chair you are sitting on, the table I’m writing on, the pattern on your skirt, the pattern on the carpet, the car in the car park, my pen. All of these things have been designed by someone like you; someone with passion, determination and talent. Someone who turned their back on what they were told they should do with their lives, but instead went ahead and did what made their heart sing. These people chose the path of the designer. Just like you are doing now.” ”

You can find Ali’s book Stitched Paper Art through Amazon here, her designs at DENY here, and her website at You can purchase a copy of her e-book From Little Things on her blog here.
Small biz how-to : Designing a knock-out business card {Part 2}
Business card design tips:

Your business card is a bit like a PR manager – they can do a fabulous job of introducing you and making you memorable…. or not. {Did you catch Part 1 of “Designing a knock-out business card? It takes a journey through how to choose colours, fonts, images, textures and more so you can figure out how to best convey your business’s style. You can find Part 1 here.}

Today’s post covers the practical aspects – graphic design basics, and the technical stuff you need to know to get the result you’re after. But first up, here’s a bunch more inspiration to get your creative juices flowing (again,they’re all standard size business cards to prove that you’re really only limited by your imagination).


 jan sabich

make your card useful like this one from jan sabich


collage-style from jean ming (front & back)

show off your skills like this collage-style from jean ming (front & back)


 Melody Nieves - pirate-style treasure map

make it fun – pirate-style treasure map from Melody Nieves



add some whimsy and mystery with a bit of scratchie-style


tiny twiggette - letterpress

tiny twiggette – gorgeous in letterpress


show off your surface design portfolio - the beginnings

show off your surface design portfolio – the beginnings


involve your customers - fill in the blank for kim bost

involve your customers – fill in the blank for kim bost



As I mentioned in the last post, the standard size for a business card is around 55mm x 85mm (2″ x 3.5″). These vary a bit from printer to printer, so always check.

Other sizes or shapes can be very attractive and certainly make your card stand out, but they’re usually much more expensive, AND if it won’t fit into a wallet or business cardholder, it’s probably less likely to be kept in a usable spot by your potential customer.



Now, of course you can make your own business cards, especially if you’re involved in the handmade industry. However, if you’re not careful these can very much end up looking home-made and cheap. So unless you’re feeling particularly confident about your abilities, I would avoid them.

There are two other ways to go – if you’re not confident about making the images yourself, you can take your ideas along to your local printer (who usually have in-house designers to put your design ideas into a finished printable format), or you can use one of the many online printing venues (such as MOOSaltprinttinyprints, JukeBox, GotPrint, or google one in your area) who will let you upload your own designs and they print them for you. Most of these also provide you with a downloadable template that you can use in your favourite image editing software,and they will also give you some tips on what to do and what not to do.

When you’re designing your own images to upload you need to also include a small amount (about 3mm) around the outside for bleed. These also vary from printer to printer, so do check.



Letterpress has a wonderful texture as the process results in embossed card which adds a high-end handmade feel. They’re most often handprinted by small workshops, and are therefore much more expensive, and you are also limited to one or two colours. However, good letterpress looks absolutely fabulous and is definitely worth the money if you can afford it.


Digital Printing

When you’re printing from digital files, you need to work at around 300dpi (dots/pixels per inch = about  72 pixels per cm) or higher to ensure a crisp image. So, if you’re designing a card that is 85mm x 55mm plus a 3mm bleed on all edges = 91mm x 61mm, you need to work on a canvas that is around 6550 pixels x 4390 pixels.

In Photoshop, pull out some guides to show you where the bleed area is.  Go into “View/New Guide…” and then enter the positions of your guides (here the guidelines are shown in turquoise). You can go further and add in some more guides for the ‘safe area’ of where to put text so that it doesn’t look squished in a corner.


inserting guidelines in Photoshop

inserting guidelines in Photoshop


It’s important that you also work in CMYK colour, as that’s what the file will be printed in. If you work in RGB colour (which is what is used by monitors), when it gets converted to CMYK for printing some colours can end up looking very murky.


Graphic Design Basics

Contrast. Use visual contrast to provide focal points in your design. Contrast in size, texture, colour, direction or shape can turn something monotonous into something interesting and beautiful. Don’t get carried away with too much contrast though; it can just end up looking messy.

Contrast is also important so that your contact details are easy to read.

When choosing fonts, the rule of thumb is to use only two fonts on any one document, three if you absolutely must. You can vary the size of the same font to provide interest and hierarchy.

- Alignment. Alignment is about building visual relationships on the page or frame; making sure everything in your design relates to something else on the page. If it’s out of alignment, it looks messy and ill-considered. It’s really as simple as making sure all your text is lined up (either centred correctly, or justified to the left or right) – break out some more guidelines to help you with this, or you can use the Alignment tools in Photoshop.

If you’ve got a layered image in Photoshop, alignment is simple. In the first image there are three layers plus background. To centre align them with the background, you need to select all layers. Select all your layers by holding the shift key down and clicking on them all.

Then, click on the Move tool in the top left, and then the ‘centre’ icon on the top bar.


biz cARDS - ps ALIGN


To distribute them equally down the page, you need to only select the layers you’re moving, so deselect the background. Then click on the ‘Distribute’ icon in the top bar.


biz cARDS - ps ALIGN2


Alignment can also be used with text to indicate a different level of information. By indenting text from the line above it, we indicate that it’s a different type of information.



This is the explanatory text.


Hierarchy. Creating a hierarchy in your design is helpful in communicating what is the most important information. We can do this in various ways – through the use of different font styles and sizes (e.g. italic and bold, or all caps), and through Alignment (as above).

When you’re using small fonts though, make sure you don’t go so small that it’s hard to read. Legibility is vital! Don’t make your potential customers work too hard to get your contact information.


- RepetitionRepetition of font styles, colours, shapes, etc., creates continuity and cohesiveness. Make it fit with your brand.


- Space. DON’T crowd your cardLeave space – it looks better. Less is more.

Space can also be a useful thing for either your customers to write notes on about you and your goods and services, or for you to write a short thank you to your customers.



DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING before printing. Get someone else to proof it too.
It’s embarrassing and/or expensive to find that typo after they’re printed!!!




Have you got a great business card already? Or you’ve got an okay kind of business card but you’re not quite sure what you can do to improve it? I’d love to see! Feel free to hop on over to my Facebook page and post a pic of your card and promote your biz at the same time!

Or have you got a burning question about business card design (or any other kind of graphic design or branding question) pop a comment below and I’ll get you an answer. Your question might just be the one to help another small business too – share the love! 

Julie x

Inspiring : INAE {Laura Hewitt ceramics}

Laura Hewitt started her career in arts as a sculptor in mixed media. When people asked her about her work, she said she often heard herself answer, “Well, it’s not anything, exactly.” And thus, It’s Not Anything Exactly {INAE} Enterprises was born.


INAE  - river frontage mugs

INAE – river frontage mugs


Laura’s ceramics are an otherworldly hybrid of organic and machine, mysterious and tactile. Textures like moonscapes combine with teeth, bolts and mystical and mathematical symbols to create work that is reminiscent equally of HR Giger and Shaun Tan.


INAE - biomech stoneware bowl

INAE – biomech stoneware bowl


This is her full-time job now after first starting on this path in 1984 (“at last, at last!”). Initially studying ceramics and drawing and then receiving an MFA in interdisciplinary studies, Laura went on to teach metalsmithing and drawing at Fairbanks University, Alaska, and has had her work in over 200 exhibitions. Talk about a long haul!

It really started even much earlier than that, and Laura is grateful for her gradeschool teachers when she was younger.  “I got to spend time out in the hall alone working on my own projects or asked to create the classroom bulletin boards, sometimes extra art assignments.  I was very fortunate to have them.  They made me feel my creativity was special and valuable.”


INAE - industrial wedding cake teapot and teacups

INAE – industrial wedding cake teapot and teacups


Her work now is profoundly inspired by the “dichotomies and juxtapositions” of the Alaskan landscape, and she finds “more inspiration comes from outside the studio than in it. I’m particularly interested in exploring the intersections between technology and nature, art and craft, destruction and creation.”  Thrown into the mix of inspiration are many writers and philosophers too; “Mostly scifi and surreal decadent fiction writers and French post structuralist philosophers.”


INAE - Ohms AC Law bowls

INAE – Ohms AC Law bowls


Laura is full of dichotomies herself; after spending many years as a teacher and facing up to classes every day, her answer to the question “If I gave you a cardboard box, a marker pen and a sharp knife, what would you do/make with them?”, her answer was “Cut two holes in it, draw a smiley face on the outside and put it over my head.  Instant social skills.”


INAE - two typewriter bowls

INAE – two typewriter bowls


She describes her studio in rural Alaska as a beautiful work in progress, “It changes a lot but right now it’s white, minimalistic, overly organized, everything in it’s place but with windows overlooking the most incredible landscape on the planet.”


Laura has two favourite pieces of advice.

” “Don’t let anything stop you”[from being creative]. These words were said to me by someone much older who had let all sorts of things get in their way so it really meant something.  I think I was maybe 7 or 8 but I knew it was an adult conversation, an Adult Moment.  I’ll never forget it; I feel like I was shot in the heart with those words.”


View from Laura's window

The view from Laura’s window

And the second?

” “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough”.  That was said by Dr. Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble who I was very fortunate to have as an instructor in grad school.  I didn’t like hearing it at the time at all.  I just wanted to do a bunch of perfect little arty things, get good grades, get my degree and get out of school as simply and smoothly as possible.  He gave me a much needed kick at the time and it still holds true now when I find myself cranking out perfect little arty things and not going anywhere.”


You can find more of Laura’s work in her Etsy shop, inaeent, and on her own website,