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Alice Peto China

 

For this month’s blog I wanted to talk about a brand (and person) that I am a huge fan of, Alice Peto. Alice is one of the most talented illustrators I know and her china is beautiful and unique and, like my own, her products are made in the UK.

I caught up with Alice for a long overdue coffee and chatted all things flamingos, china and juggling motherhood with running a small business.

 

Can you tell us about the history of your brand?

My mum was an incredible artist who always encouraged me. Not long after she passed in 2009, and busy cleaning up the catastrophe of a kitchen left by my father from making an omelette, it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted to design a range of china that could go in the dishwasher.

As an illustrator I had been searching for something that my designs would work on and I knew there was a massive niche in the market for every-day English china a range that was unique, elegant and fun and that could also go in the dishwasher. So with grief in tow, I threw myself into this project and came up with my first collection featuring the Penguin, Parakeet, Flamingo and Guinea Fowl.

 

 

What made you decide to keep your brand entirely British?

Stoke-on-Trent (which is to pottery what Hatton Garden is to diamonds) hosts the oldest china manufacturers in England and 300 years ago was the only place you could have china made. Of course you can now buy from China and get 500 plates tomorrow but I like the personal touch. So what if  Gail’s gone off to have a hobnob and will ring you later’? They are the best.

 

I think a lot of people are hesitant to turn their dreams into reality, what has your journey looked like?

I initially ran the business side by side with a part time teaching job in a nursery (my background is as an art teacher). Time management is essential when working freelance and I used the spare room in my tiny flat to work on the designs for both my china and prints.

My family was very nervous about my venture, which in turn made me very determined, and eventually I was in a position to take the leap into being a full time illustrator and designer. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is really happening’.

You then very generously offered me a space on your stand at Decorex 2013 where you launched Juliet Travers Wallpapers (image below). It always makes me laugh how we started off the show in heels and by the end were wearing trainers and Compede blister plasters whilst gorging on chocolate brownies to keep us going! Not to mention the humiliation on day 3, when in the Queensway Pret A Manger, the guy making my cappuccino said ‘Oh my God, Alice Peto’ and I genuinely thought he somehow knew my brand and I really was famous… only to realise I was wearing my Decorex exhibitors badge.

 

 

What was the tipping point for the business?

After 4 days on holiday without Internet or telephone access, we were one day against my will because I simply hate walking climbing the Munros when at the very peak my phone found the faintest signal. A voicemail from Wedding Presents Direct asked if I would like my china on their wedding lists!

 

How have you juggled motherhood with building your own business? Have you found a work/life balance? 

I think 80% of the challenge is mummy guilt and once you have that sorted, the rest is logistics. When my little girl was around 4 months old, I sat down and painted one day during her lunchtime nap. I realised how much I had missed painting and that I wanted to find more of a balance for me.

I now feel I have that; Arabella is with her Granny on a Monday and then spends 2 days at nursery. The other 2 days are for her and me  no work, no phone, no email. I just love this time with her.

 

 

Has social media helped the growth of your business and if so, how? 

Yes! Instagram is amazing I love it. 90% of the time I am on my tod painting at the kitchen table or in my studio in the garden and Instagram provides the support and feedback I need. I used to text 10 different girlfriends to get their opinion on something but now I can post on Instagram and immediately get feedback it gives me so much confidence in what I am creating. And it’s incredible for business I designed the world map print, posted it on Instagram and sold 16 in just 2 hours!

 

 

 

Who are your top three influential accounts to follow on Instagram?

 

1. House & Garden I really love their taste and visuals. It’s my go to read.

2. I have just discovered a new illustrator and artist Brita Granstrom her work is stunning and I have bought one of her sketches.

3. Erica Davies fashion editor. I love her colours and style.

 

What would be your one word of advice for someone starting out on his or her own? 

Persevere.

 

And now?

I am extending my current range to include table mats and later this year I will be launching my 3rd collection, I am incredibly excited about this. My focus as I grow is to keep the personal touch with my customers.

 

 

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