Siya (Alexander Benekos) is a fabric designer I discovered whilst browsing designs on Spoonflower. Siya has such a large and eclectic range of designs – florals, medallions, drawings, as well as more geometric styles – that I thought he was worthy of further investigation. The colours are quite vibrant, and the designs showcase some excellent drawing skills with nice detail.
I was wondering if Siya was really a bowerbird in disguise? I asked him a few questions.
Where are you based? Currently, I’m based on Japan’s rural west coast. I haven’t always been here and I might not be here for much longer, but I’m here now.
Where did the name “Siya” come from? Siya was a character I made back in college. I sort of adopted his name for my online artistic endeavours.
What are your childhood experiences and memories of craft and/or design? When I was three or four, my babysitter sat down with me, a pad of paper and some crayons. We took turns drawing. She taught me how to make a scratchboard with black crayon and drew a stick figure wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a cucumber and a salt shaker. I still have trouble keeping myself from mimicking that when I draw T-shirts today.
In retrospect, I’m amazed at how patient my parents were with my hunger for art supplies…especially the weeks I happened upon something new. One week, paper cone spiders. Everywhere.
Are there any creative people in your family background? Especially any that influenced you? A few of them would deny it, but I believe everyone in my family was creative. I would try to make my own gift cards in an effort to mimic the ones my mother made from colored paper one Christmas that depicted a Bethlehem skyline. I managed to get some basic crochet lessons out of one grandmother and I certainly inherited my other grandmother’s love of color (and swaying to music when generally happy). Both of my grandfathers were often in their vegetable gardens, but I would spend time with both of them either in the kitchen, the workshop or drawing pictures on the floor. My father’s stick figures were always my favorite stick figures. My great-grandmother refused to teach me how to tat, though. (and that begs a whole new question… – JG.)
What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in craft/design? Procrastination and laziness. I love the feeling of accomplishing something, but I hate the feeling of working towards that accomplishment. If the deadline is up to me, there’s a good chance I will find enough filler activities for my time to forget the project entirely. The runner-up would have to be immoderation. When I find a method that I really enjoy using, I will probably overdo it until everyone is sick of seeing it. (See above: A week of paper cone spiders. Everywhere.)
What has been the icing on the cake for you as a designer/craftsperson? Seeing my work become a product still baffles me on some basic level. It’s as if some magic crept its way into my design while I wasn’t looking and BAM! it’s something people can use. Seeing people want to use it, though, is the most exciting. I always hope to see what people are doing with my designs, so it’s always wonderful to hear from someone who has purchased one.
Who do you admire (other artists/designers; other people generally)? What/who are your biggest influences, past or present? –Mucha and Magritte are probably my favorite historic artists. Their works always feel so fantastic and make me want to read a story where that scene or character comes from.
-Anita Lobel had some of the most enthralling illustrations when I was a child. The books she illustrated were probably the ones I borrowed from the library the most. Even now, I’ll bring one home if I see it.
-Jim Henson (and the rest of the Muppeteers). Not only would I love to be able to help design Muppets, I have never seen any other puppeteers in the world who can sync mouth movements as well. Also, Jim Henson was a pretty awesome guy.
-My high school art teacher, in spite of all of the teenage immaturity we brought with us to class, worked really hard to make sure we had every opportunity to grow artistically that we could. She had the patience of a saint!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? “Perfect will only make you crazy.” – It’s from a song by Plumb, but it gets me to loosen up and let go when I can’t get something “just right” or I just don’t have all the answers.
Seems to me like there’s an awful lot of stuff happening in Siya’s head! I’m sure there will be much more design to come. And as far as the existing designs go, I think Hydrangea would have to be just about my favourite – I love how the layers of the single flower float one above the other in (almost) monochrome, conjuring the idea of the flower head without getting too specific.
I would like to thank Siya for his time, and for the use of his images. You can find more of his work on Spoonflower here.