“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.
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.
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.”
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’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.”
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.” ”