2017….Mmmmmmm…

Well it’s that time of year again. Time for reflection and this year is the first year in many where I’m left wondering what I have actually achieved in 2017. I know – I’m always hard on myself, but this year I feel like I’m in a little bubble of nothingness. I’m not quite sure where I belong. At almost 45, maybe it’s my age?!

I’m left wondering a little bit about what 2017 has been about this year for me. At the start of the year I was in my (what I thought was) dream job – working for an agent. But in an over saturated market I struggled to make money solely designing, plus I missed terribly being around people. So I got myself a couple of  little cafe jobs, which I loved and have really enjoyed having social interaction once again. The steady income, albeit tiny, was a bonus too as I’d been used to money coming into my account very adhoc for the last ten years. So that was great…..but not really fulfilling.

Next came another job teaching art to children and teaching sewing to adults. That pushed me out of my comfort zone as I’ve never taught before and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. However, working for other people after running my own business for such a long time has been tough if I’m brutally honest and I knew it would be. When you are so used to answering only to yourself and doing things your way, it’s rather difficult doing things “their” way, especially when you know you can do it better! Ha, ha! Forever the business owner hey!

So 2017 has left me a bit non plussed to be honest. Being a creative I’ve realised that having my fingers in many pies is good for me as I do get bored easily (remember all the blogging I used to do with Cheeky Pickle – it helped me keep my mind buzzing and kept the boredom at bay), being around people again and not being stuck behind a computer is good for me, teaching is uplifting and making someone smile by making them laugh in the cafe or helping someone gain confidence by learning a new skill is a lovely thing to do, but I’m still left a little numb.

My husband and I have talked about going into business together for many years and this is something that I’d love to do. We both agree that my current product business isn’t working and I know that I have to re think everything I’ve ever done. The surface pattern market is full to bursting with amazing designers and I don’t feel like I have the energy to keep pushing and competing any more. So the only option (I believe) is to start again. Start again with a shiny new idea, new business, new website……Ah, as you can imagine this fills me with excitement, but also fills me with a sense of exhaustion….and that’s just thinking about it!

So there you go. That’s my year. Honest as ever! So that’s why I’ve not been very prominent on social media and I haven’t been pushing my product forward. It’s time for change, but how that change will manifest itself I’m not quite sure yet. Watch this space!

Merry Christmas – Ali xxx

Blue Print Show and 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Me!

Oops….it’s May already!! Well I did say that I would be busy in the first half of this year didn’t I?!

So what have I been up to?

In December I was signed up by a design agent, Cinnamon Joe Studio where I have been busy since then designing like crazy for them. I’ve had a few sales, but I was really chuffed when I sold a Valentines design to Hallmark a couple of months ago. It really did make me finally feel that I am “good enough” to work alongside other designers within the surface pattern field.

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I’ve learnt so much in the past five months. I’ve learnt a lot about colour, working with trends, making my designs better and a lot more detailed, adding texture (to EVERYTHING!) and thinking about the saleability of my designs. I’ve always just designed what I’ve wanted to design, but when you have to design towards a trend/theme, especially a theme you’re not too fond of, then it’s a lot harder!

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Next week is the deadline for my first ever big trade show – BluePrint in New York and I am really excited to see how my designs will be received. Wish me luck!

Everyone has been doing this over on IG recently, so I thought I’d join in!

20 things you didn’t know about me (Blimey, 20! – Here goes!)…

1 – I was an aerobics instructor and personal trainer for many, many years and loved it. In fact I’m contemplating going back to it part time!

2 – I am very particular about my tea – it HAS to be Earl Grey and only Twinings Earl Grey. I have to keep an emergency pack in my bag just in case I’m at someones house and they decided to give me Breakfast tea – OMG, just the idea of it!

3 – I’ve just started working in a cafe to get me out of the house and meet people again. (It’s so lonely working from home) and I LOVE it! In fact I’m thinking of doing a Barista course!

4 – I try and exercise daily to keep me sane! I am definitely one of those people who needs a daily serotonin boost or I can get very down – The Black Dog and all that!

5 – I’ve also worked in a travel agency ( I was rubbish!) and as a teaching assistant in a primary school (I was pretty good at that I think) – Just call me Mr. Ben!

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Cornwall – My favourite place EVER!

6 – I’ve lived and worked in many countries: Manchester, Loughborough, Milan, Rome, Vienna, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Porto, St. Ives (Cambridgeshire) Melbourne, Sandbach! (I know! How did I end up in exotic Sandbach?!)

7 – My favourite place in the whole world is Cornwall

8 – My dream would be to own a little cafe by the coast….Cornwall obviously!

9 – As well as tea I am also very particular about coffee – it has to be good coffee and extra hot, oh and if the froth isn’t just so, well then it has to be sent back! Be warned all those barristas out there!

10 – I’ve always loved cats and had no time for dogs until we bought our lovely Dougal the Cavapoo six years ago. I am now completely converted and have turned into such a dog lover!

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Gorgeous Dougal!

11 – I’m not materialistic at all and I spend all my money on holidays. My husband and I never buy each other Birthday and Christmas gifts as we think it’s a total waste of money. We’d rather put the money towards a family adventure!

12 – I had never been abroad until I was seventeen. At 17 I travelled around Europe with a tent and ruck sack on my back with my first ever boyfriend. I did it again the next year, but to different European destinations….with my second boyfriend! I’ve not stopped travelling since!

13 – I’m originally from Manchester.

14 – I’m a better mum than I thought I would be, and I am very strict!

15 – I learnt to surf on Fistral Beach, Newquay when I was 28 and loved it. I used to go to the same beach every year as a child, where I used to body board on WOODEN BOARDS – I know – how old am I?

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TRAVEL!!! – I LOVE IT! I love hill walking and being in the mountains

16 – I think the Aussies are the best people I’ve ever met. “Good on yer Aussies”

17 – It’s VERY hard to make me laugh and most comedians just don’t come close. However I am partial to a little Peter Kaye, Graham Norton and I only have to look a Chevvy Chase and I’m in stitches. I do like a bit of slap stick!

18 – I lived in Melbourne for ten years. My husband, the kids and I are all now dual citizens of the UK and Australia.

19 – Before Ali Benyon Designs, I ran a very sucsessful business called Cheeky Pickle and had my designs in shops all over Australia

20 – I studied art for 7 years in total. A Level for two, Foundation for two (It should have been one, but I was having too much fun with all those boyfriends and needed a second year to actually crack on with some work!) and then a Degree in Textile Design for three years.

 

Hello 2017. Nice to see you!

Happy New Year!

We spent some time these holidays in bonnie Scotland. There was nothing to do at all other than walk along the cliffs and relax, which was absolutely perfect. I pretty much turned my phone off for two weeks (I highly recommend a total social media detox!) and spent some fab quality time with the family. Lovely!

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I now feel relaxed, refreshed, raring to go and can’t wait for what 2017 has to bring. I think it’s going to be a good one!

My words for this year are “relax” “me time is ok” “be easy on yourself!”

At the end of last year I received some exciting news about creating some work for a design studio. So I won’t be doing many markets for the first half of the year. I’ll be head down and very busy designing like crazy, trying to make a good impression! Unfortunately I won’t be able to show you any of this work, so if you wonder why I’m just showing you tiny snippets of new designs rather than the whole thing, then this is why. This is something I’ve dreamed about for a very long time, so I hope it’s the start of something great for me. I’ll certainly be giving it my 100% effort that’s for sure! So if I’m a little quieter than usual over the next few months, don’t worry, I’m still around. I’ll just be super busy doing what I love!

Wish me luck on this next adventure! 🙂

Farewell 2017!

Well another year has gone….where did that one go?!

It’s been a really tough year for me this year, both for my business and my family. Even though it’s been a great year in many respects; we’ve loved getting to know our country again, we’ve loved showing the girls all the beautiful places where we grew up and holidayed as kids ourselves. Visiting Europe and letting the girls see other cultures, taste different foods and see different types of architecture. And we’ve loved climbing some big hills and getting out and about in the lovely countryside and coastal areas that the UK has to offer. Watch out Cornwall, we’re back in May and can’t wait!!

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It’s also been hard starting again from scratch, settling the girls into new schools (two schools in my eldest daughters case as she started Hight School this year too) My poor little one has taken a full year to settle into Primary School, with daily tears and very high anxiety, being in and out of hospital with one thing and another all year hasn’t helped either, making new friends and becoming adjusted to new habits, routines and day to day stuff. It’s actually been much harder coming back to the UK than it was going out to Australia to be honest. Growing up for the past ten years in Australia and bringing our kids up there, our eldest was 10 months when we landed, we had changed, we had probably changed  a lot more than we thought we had. And getting used to Brits and their little ways has been harder than we expected after being used to the laid back Aussie way of life for so long. We are a lot more Aussie than we ever thought we were and probably a little less British! Does that make sense?

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It’s been hard starting the business from scratch too. I’ve worked so hard all year. I’ve created a brand new website and shop, created new, more commercial (hopefully more sellable) designs, new products, found new suppliers, taken endless photo’s and then had some professional photos taken of all my products (as mine were all terrible!).

I’ve been out and about showcasing all my new work at many markets and events, trying to gauge my customers opinions and of course trying my hardest to sell what I do! It’s been hard, hard work and the return has been very little to be honest (as you know, I’m always honest!). Christmas markets are fabulous as you can imagine, but the rest of the year is so, so. In September I tried once again to be accepted to sell with Not On The High Street (A selling platform in the UK), but was turned down again because my product wasn’t commercial enough (or maybe not personalised enough) even though I had spent all year trying to design my product so that it would fit in with their concept/customer and changed what they had told me to change when they initially turned me down a year earlier.

So towards the end of the year I had to do some deep thinking about my product. Did I want to create a more commercial/sellable product or did I want to carry on doing what I believed in and create what I loved? Well, I tried the commercial stuff (albeit only a few designs if truth be told) and it just wasn’t me. Yes, I realise that that is how to make money (which is totally what I’m trying to do right?!!), but for me I was selling out, my heart wasn’t in it and it just didn’t feel right. I got very down about things and for the second time this year I really did think about giving the business up. It just wasn’t making me happy anymore. It wasn’t like in the early days where I felt like I had a real connection with my customer out there, the customer who chatted and laughed with me daily on Facebook and who came back to order from me again and again. It’s not like it was back then unfortunately, now it really is like talking to myself when I’m on Facebook and turning those very few likes into sales is getting harder and harder! It felt like it was  all effort and very little gain, plus I hadn’t actually done any designing since March and I really did wonder what the point to it all was. I was a textile designer, who didn’t design?!!

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So after a few down months, after a long and hard think, I decided to just get back to designing again – for fun! Just to do what I love and what I was born to do. I’ve been doing that for the last three weeks and it’s honestly the happiest I’ve felt all year. So, I finally found my answer! Get back to doing what I love, relax and see where it takes me!

Thanks for sticking around, commenting, liking and sharing on FB, buying my stuff and just being there. All that stuff really and truly does mean a lot to us small businesses who are trying our hardest to make a living from doing what we love! 🙂 Have a wonderful Christmas  – Love Ali xx

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Preparing for Christmas

I’ve been a little more prepared for the onslaught of Christmas this year. I’ve been busy in the background, organising new products, updating my event layout and stocking up on Christmas cards and tags.

I’ve also introduced personalised prints and cushions to my product list, which are proving to be really popular already.

Here’s a list of the next few events I’ll be showing at, please come and say hi if you’re around 🙂

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One Year Anniversary

Can you believe we’ve been back in the UK for a whole year!? I can’t! It’s really, really flown. So much has happened and so many emotions have been felt; from tears at the school gate, which have lasted a little longer than expected, to moving house, meeting up with old friends and for my eldest child, saying goodbye to Primary School and preparing for the next stage in her life – High School. It’s certainly been a mad, hectic and very emotional year.

The kids have worked so, so hard (new school, new friends, new routines, SATS, preparing for high school and more. Aren’t kids amazing?!). We’ve been worried if it will all turn out ok, I’ve had a few rather stressful periods with work, almost handing in the towel and seriously going to find a “proper” job on two occasions, there have been tears and  tantrums (me!), we’ve climbed a few big hills (literally), been camping, exhibited at many different markets and events, got tiddly with old friends, swam in the cold, cold sea (wet suits are super cheap over here!) and holidayed in my most favourite place in the world, Cornwall.

But what we have achieved in one year is quite phenomenal and I am so proud of us all for staying strong through a rather tough old year.

Now we’ve been here a year we realised it was about time we started to lay down soon roots and that means starting a few renovations on the house. We’ve decided to start with the dining/family room which at the moment is a bit of a walk through room to the kitchen. I want a real seaside/Cornish feel to this room, one where we can relax, eat, read, have friends over, do homework, a real multi functional room. I’ve been slowly putting together a few items and love the feel that is coming together already. The floor boards are being fitted this week, so it’s all getting quite exciting!

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I’ve also recently moved into my new “hyde’ or rather home office which I feel will be a huge turning point for my business. It’s been put to the test already this week and has proven to be a fantastic location for all my product photography as I have light coming in from two directional windows, which is perfect for the look I’m trying to achieve.

So at the moment, as well as enjoying the summer holidays with the kids, I’m very slowly putting my product photography together. I have so many products and each product needs at least three shots to show it off to its best. So it’s just a case of head down and work through things super slowly!

Here are a few of my favourite shots I’ve taken over the weekend..

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June

Well it’s been an emotional June and I’m feeling rather exhausted. My computer totally crashed on me earlier in the month, leaving with me with a huge lesson to learn….back up, back up, back up!!!

Yes, for three whole weeks, I really did think that I had lost about six months work. I was devastated as you can imagine and was really ready to throw in the towel. So I took a little break, went on holiday to stunning Cornwall with my family and came back (slightly) refreshed. Pic taken of my gorgeous girls by my Hubby – Benyons Corner

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When I returned, I started looking for “real” jobs and actually filled out a couple of application forms. By this point I hadn’t touched any design work for about four whole weeks and in all honesty, it was killing me! I knew that I had to get back behind the wheel and start designing again. So slowly but surely I have started to draw, design  and think in a creative way again. (It never went away really, no matter how much I tried and I really did try, honest!)

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Some new card designs I’ve been designing. There will be 20 new card designs coming very soon!

So it was back to it.

But then we had the news of the referendum outcome on Friday and that has sent me reeling once again. I don’t usually get political, but I, like many Brits am feeling depressed, upset, angry and rather deflated right now. The creative in me has disappeared once again, but I’m sure she’ll pop her head out again soon.

As I get older I’m learning to listen to my body; to not just go at life like a bull in a China shop, but to slow down, smell the roses, put my feet up when it feels good to do so and not feel guilty about it….I’ve learnt that and also to….. BACK UP, back up, back up!! LOL!

 

Upcoming Events. Come and see me at – 

 

Rode Hall Farmers Market- Saturday 2nd July

Leek Sunday Supplement- Sunday 3rd July

Nantwich Brocante Market- Saturday 6th August

 

 

 

 

May already!

I can’t believe we are in May already! Last month for me has been all about getting some new stock together. So gorgeous coasters, note cards, gift tags, t towels, tote bags and personalised prints have been being delivered from the printers and I’ve been busy sewing fabric covered notebooks, using my own designed fabric. They will all be available to purchase in the shop soon, but for now you can buy them at the following markets and events.

My next months events –

May 7th – Rode Hall Farmers Market

May 14th – Sandbach Makers Market

 

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Country Living Fair

A busy week this week for me. I headed off to London with an old college friend (We hadn’t seen each other in 24 years. It was mad!!) to see the Country Living Magazine Fair in Islington.

I have been offered a spot at their Christmas Harrogate Fair in November, so thought I’d better start thinking about my stand, how I am going to dress it and how much product I should plan on taking. It’s all a bit daunting when you have never done anything like this before, so I thought I’d better start “thinking on” (One of my Grans old sayings!)

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It was a fabulous fair and we met some really lovely and friendly designers there. It’s always a bit awkward when you are chatting away and they realise that you aren’t a customer, but actually there to get ideas, inspiration and ask a squillion and one questions. But the majority we met were really open and honest about showing at such a prestigious event.

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They also had some great business talks on starting a craft business, getting into shops and general chit chat on making it in the “selling your craft” arena. It actually felt quite nice to hear of others, that you thought were successful, but were in fact actually going through the same things as you; lack of confidence, trying to get their wholesale price down, but keep everything 100% British made. The list goes on and on…..

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So now I feel a lot less daunted, I have some strong, but simple ideas for my stand and clear path for the next few months of planning! A successful trip all round I think.

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One of the business talks with Liz Earle.