Hello, so, on my instagram feed I promised a bit of a background post and here it is. I'm always interested to understand how people got where they did,and why they do what they do, so I hope you find this interesting...
I'm the youngest of 4, and grew up in Burwash East Sussex, a tiny and beautiful English village where everyone knows your business! I loved growing up there as we had free access to woods and fields which I was allowed to eventually explore alone. The freedom was insane. The trees and the nature left a huge impression on me. I take my boys back now and it's their favourite woods :) It was a small place though and I never felt I fitted into the village scene. I moved to Lewes at 18 where I found more like minded people.
At school I loved Art and Music, but also sciences and maths, I'm a rare geek/artist type person at heart, very interested in how things look and how things work. My Dad loved Escher and Japanese Art, and My mother loved anything hippyish and floral, so a love of intricate pattern is in my bones. I used to play for hours with wooden tessellating shapes, like the ones pictures below...
My father, Allan Beecham was an extemely talented Woodturner, along with his 6 brothers, from a long long line of Woodworkers. Always working as a family business, our ancestors showed carved chairs and tables at Queen Victoria's Great Exhibition. Some of my cousins carried on the tradition and are still making furniture today. My father died very suddenly in May this year. His legacy lives on in what I'm doing I hope :) His most high profile project was turning (and redesigning as he didn't like their shapes haha) all the pieces for the bandstands at Eurodisney. These are still there today....
My Mother was a great craftswoman, teaching me drawing, knitting, sewing and baking. She was a very loving person, and lived for helping others. She died in 2014 with cancer. My siblings are all musical and artistic, there was a lot of Art and Music around growing up. A lot of discussion about aesthetics, form and function, shape, puzzles, figuring things out, learning, and spiritual development too. My parents were serial searcher types, always keen to try new things.
My sister, the eldest, often describes how as a child I was completed lost in another world of creativity, totally absorbed in my projects, be it an artwork, or sewing or making something, all the time. I also loved to play the piano, and had an extremely dedicated and amazing teacher, whose daughter has gone on to become an international classical music star living in New York. At points I wished to do the same, and the 'failure' of that fired up a huge drive and desire to succeed in another area, which had to be Art.
After A-levels, I fell into retail working for clothing company Monsoon Accessorize for 7 years. I then ran an independent shoe shop, and a haberdashery, and then piano teaching for children, until having my babies at 29 and 32. I had met my husband young, at 15 actually, so I stayed in East Sussex and we have remained settled in Lewes. After living in central Lewes for years, we bought our 1926 cottage in Ringmer in 2016, which has had a big influence on my work, firing up my interior design skills and teaching me a whole load of new skills. Doing it up has been super fun, but I'm keen to finish now and start on some other properties, preferably other peoples!
Going back, I had set up a small business before having children, importing and customising shoes, with names on for weddings and special occasions. Also with flowers and corsages etc, when pin up was a huge trend. I learned A LOT of mistakes during this time, and realised how hard it was to be making all of the products you sell as well as selling and marketing them. I was determined to have another go and get it right. I always wanted my own business, and when ecommerce was developed I put a lot of pressure on myself to get involved and learn the systems necessary to start an online business. In my head it was like, 'hurry up, you haven't got much time!' I wanted to join in the internet revolution really badly because I never found much of a 'tribe' locally aside from obviously old friends and work colleagues. I wanted to link up with others creatively. I also really wanted to be my own boss.
I remember at this point being avidly interested in what it is that makes certain objects of design, and designs themselves popular. What is it about a popular print, that makes it popular? What styles outlive trends? What styles do people like in a wide age range? How do certain patterns, and patterned objects ENDURE, and eventually become ICONIC. I was also obsessed with brands, and branding, and how that 'cult status' builds. I had studied shopper behaviour, and now I felt it was time to try to create something that would really please people, really make them gasp. I've always had a drive to shock and delight.
I noticed that the aesthetics used in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods had universal appeal, and were echoed again with a different slant in the BIBA era. I decided to explore this along with the arts and crafts patterns. My husband had noticed I needed an outlet for all the creativity that was building up inside, and it sparked a conversation about winning the lottery. I said I would use the money to go to University (which I never did) and learn print design. He encouraged me to just begin designing, without tuition, and really things began there. I took a small studio in Lewes, and started to just do whatever came naturally and see where things led. My children were small, so time was tight, but I used the frustration of time constraints to really let loose when I was there.
My first designs were extremely naive, Mr. Men-like, but sort of perfect in the way they repeated and flowed. I worked a long time on getting it exactly right, and trying the design in lots of different colours on lots of different surfaces. My first 'products' were mugs, a skirt, a footstool, I had fun trying out different items.
At this same time I had started doing pottery classes, at the handmade house in Ditchling. Ralph Levy, the tutor and owner became a mentor, and encouraged me at every opportunity to push harder, pointing me towards the directions that would open doors. He was absolutely key in boosting my confidence and making me believe in myself and my creativity. I could not have done it without his steadfast assistance. He died in January this year and I am so bereft not to be able to share with him all the crazy things that are happening now!
Anyways, I read a lot of design books and got interested in 60's design, and started also lino cutting (through Ralph) with Sue Hasletine. Lino cutting was a revelation, as the action of carving the lino felt so so natural, due to my predecessors in woodcarving I'm sure. Sue could not believe I had not done it before, and encouraged me in turn to try more designs in this medium. This was when my PalmPrint design formed, which kicked everything up a notch.
Picture credit Jonathan Bassett Photography
After finding a lampshade maker in the Art Deco style I was after, I had some made and photographed by Jonathan Bassett. Choosing dark backgrounds instead of light, these images propelled the brand forward, hooking into the burgeoning dark interiors scene led by designers such as Abigail Ahern. At this point I took a stand at trade show Top Drawer in London. This led to dark interiors queens Rockett St. George buying into my products. Realising we are 15 minutes away from each other, a friendly and long lasting business relationship formed. Rockett St. George at that time were displaying in Harvey Nichols, which led to the Liberty homeware buyer spotting the brand, which then led to working with Harrods, and Bergdorf Goodman in New York. I'm still amazed that all these big stores came knocking on my door, and I feel really proud to see my products in the stores.
The next two years were a huge learning curve, figuring out what works and what doesn't, which designs people like and why, which products work and which don't. At points I had to forget about trying to make money completely and just focus on outreach, but each time it's paid off as new opportunities arise. This business has never been about money anyway, it's about passion, design and connection! Our links with interior designers have been key in growing the business, with trade now being the backbone of the income. I love exhibiting at Clerkenwell design week, as it's such a concentrated trade event. Instragram and Pinterest have been key in spreading the word, and I've always been keen to show my process and be a transparent and personable businesswoman.
Picture credit Amendine Allessandra
The designs have grown up as the business has grown, and being accepted and feeling part of the 'dark interiors' movement has been exceptionally comforting and rewarding. The way that the instagram community support each other is amazing, and all of next year's projects have been borne from it! Now branching into full on interior design and curation, I'm ready to up my personal profile more and get really well known. It's been a fantastic journey and the support has been incredible. Opportunities next year include designing an Art Deco pool room in Mallorca, and of course Greg's party room, which will be the instragram party of the century! There are also some possibilites of television work, which is tremendously exciting :) Here's to a stonking 2020!!!
(Picture credits Middle - Claire Price. Middle lower - Nicola Broughton)
I do hope you have enjoyed my story, so much more to come!