Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Studio Tuesday #7 - Ali Benyon

Good Morning!
This week's Studio Tuesday features Ali Benyon, a fellow northerner who now lives in Australia. Not unlike Jennie Whitham who featured last week, Ali is a busy bee, spinning many different plates, raising a family and running another business. I follow Ali on Facebook and absolutely love seeing the flow of her work - there are daily posts of her latest pattern or collection. It's very motivating and inspiring to see this and I feel a real affinity with her in her hunger to learn and develop as a pattern designer. 

I really enjoy putting together the Studio Tuesday feature - it's so nice to read through the answers I get from different designers and I particularly liked Ali's three pieces of advice - there's a lot of wisdom there! Like so many of you, I'm guilty of never giving myself a day off. For the first time last week, a bug forced me to do nothing but sleep and watch bad TV from my bed. I had two whole days off and have promised myself I'm going to start scheduling a couple of days a month like this! If only so that I get used to not doing anything once in a while and don't go into a meltdown when I can't! 

So here is Ali's feature and some of her wonderful, dynamic and joyful work. 
Enjoy and thank you for reading! 
Frankie x

Name/Company or Studio name: Ali Benyon designs

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Where and how did you start your surface pattern design journey?
After sixth Form College, I studied Foundation Art up in Manchester in the UK (I’m from there originally) and then went on to specialise in Multi Media Textile design at Loughborough College of Art and Design, at degree level. Multi Media was a lot more like fine art back in those days and my degree show consisted of a series of theatre costumes, designed from plastic tubes and filled with different coloured liquid. They looked fantastic, but probably not the best way to land your first textile design job.
I’ve always loved colour and pattern, but my passion for surface pattern has been a slow burner. Now I’m obsessed and love all types of pattern and wished I’d studied print, not multi media!

How do you approach a project/piece of work or collection?
I wouldn’t say that I approach anything regards designing, it just kind of happens. Sometimes I’ll try and sit and draw some motifs in order to then scan and design on AI, but it never seems to work out like that. So instead I just sit down and look through all my drawn motifs. One or two usually pop out at me and i’ll bring them into Illustrator. Once there I’ll just start designing. I never know what the end result is going to be, I just go with it and let it happen. I chop, change and swap things around so many times and the colours never stay the same. But at some point I just stop and that’s when I know the design is finished. All of that sounds like designing for me takes hours, but once I’m in the “zone” I am pretty fast and a design could take as little as an hour. If it takes much longer I know i’ll never be happy with it, so I usually start from scratch.....after a coffee or two!

Favourite pencil/pen?
Both. I usually draw in pencil and then go over it in black pen. Sharpies are my favourite.

Sketchbook or loose leaf?
Both. I do lots of sketching in my sketch book: Rough ideas, both written and drawn. My finished motifs (from the sketchbook) I then draw in black pen onto loose leaf and keep in a huge folder.

How do you keep yourself on track/organised when working on a project?
I struggle! I’m a mum to two girls and I also have another business, Cheeky pickle. So my day can be extremely hectic and busy. I usually work better when I have deadlines, but if I have a few things on the go I can get very easily distracted. Running your own business and doing it all yourself can get very overwhelming at times, but you just have to take it one step at a time. You can’t do everything.

What are your creature comforts in your studio/workspace?
My dogs Dougal and Rosie sit with me while I create. I’m certainly never lonely in the studio.

Music, radio, stories or silence?
Music for me. I’ve tried listening to business interviews, discussions etc but I just can’t do it unfortunately. So I just turn the music up and try and zone the rest of the world out.

Night owl or early bird?
Early bird most definitely, always has been. Being a bit of an insomniac I can’t have any brain stimulation just before bedtime.

Illustrator or Photoshop?
Most definitely Illustrator. I love it! Even though sometimes I’d equally like to throw it out of the window in frustration!! 

What size art board do you design repeats on?

Design heroes?
I have many, but as a surface pattern designer and business woman, the one I always come back to is Lotta Jansdotter. Not only are her designs simply stunning, but her whole brand is spot on. I just love the way she has managed to create such a vibrant, contemporary and friendly feel for what she does. She’s a very clever and creative lady.

Dream clients or design goals?
I’m sure I’ll change my mind as my career develops, but at this moment in time I’d be pretty damn proud of myself if I saw my designs on products in IKEA

Dream design destination for inspiration?
I will always regret not going to Morrocco when I lived in the UK. I spent a week in Istanbul once and just loved it. I can still hear the early morning call to prayer, it was so beautiful. I can only imagine Marrakesh is just as energetic, colourful and crazy, so would love to spend some time there.

And what are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on my very first licensing deal which is both very exciting and nerve racking! I’ve learnt so much since being offered it though, so that’s the main thing....progression, however slowly it seems to happen.

Any tips or advice you want to share with us?
Yes I have three pieces of advice.

1. Get out of your comfort zone
If you are new to this field then I’d say design a lot and design in many different ways. We are told to try and find our point of difference, our signature style, but how do you find that if you design in one way only (your comfortable style, the safe place you go to when you get a bit nervous). If you love a drawn quality to your work, like me, then why not try doing some really perfect pattern repeats. You never know, you may love working this way, but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know. Oh and stop being such a perfectionist. If it goes wrong, so what, no one’s watching. I believe you have to make many mistakes before you can step out on to the right path that you can call your own.

2. Give yourself a break
Last year I worked on my very first trade show with my other business, Cheeky Pickle. I was also writing my first book at the same time and my stress levels were extremely high. I worked solidly for months and months trying to get everything perfect. I worked so hard I made myself ill with raging heart palpitations. My advice is that it’s really not worth it. Yes you are allowed to go for coffee with friends, yes you do have time to take a day off and do something fun. So even when you are super busy with a million and one things on your plate, just take a break, force yourself to, you DO have time.

3. Don’t give up and be yourself
It’s sometimes hard to keep going when you look around and see others steaming ahead. My advice is to keep your eyes on “your” path and not anybody else’s. This can be so hard these days what with social media and all. But just remember that you have a special quality, your designs are totally unique; they are you. Once you find that special quality, nurture it, build on it and most importantly stay true to yourself. If it feels right, no matter what others say, it probably is right.

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