Monday, January 14, 2008

Designer Profile: Red Instead

Illustrator, designer and artist, multi talented Jen Leheny of shares a little of her world with us today...

My personal style is all about the things I love - print and pattern, simple but stylish, a little cheeky here and there. Over the years I have been doing this, I have tried my hand at quite a few things, including collage, painting, bag making, t-shirt printing and so on and it was all about me finding my style and what I liked doing, while working out what will sell and be a popular line.

art' card; Collage with wallpaper on canvas
I always have my eyes open, looking around at what people are wearing, their bags and accessories - how they put their look together. I love to read magazines like Real Living, Domino, Blueprint and I keep inspiration books full of tear sheets. I also save a stack of photos from the internet of things I like in an "inspiration" file. In fact, doing this has helped me work out what I love and what my style is, as I see common themes running through the tear sheets and saved images.

Hand painted ceramics
I have never studied formally and I took some time to get over that feeling of insecurity, having not had formal feedback on what I am doing. Reading books and researching online can teach you anything if you are motivated, though I think you have to have some innate abilities to draw on as well. I worked professionally in web and graphic design before I started this business, and I was self taught in that as well. I put these skills to good use, designing my own websites and designing all of my own business cards, swing tags, advertising copy, and more. I still wonder if I might like to study design or fashion at some stage in the future, hoping to get some credits for practical experience though!

Hanging mobile #4
I have dabbled in many things in the last couple of years and this was a deliberate exercise in creativity - in "letting go" and trying new things. I really enjoy collage and printing but I have found that my first and true love is sewing so that will be my main focus for now. I have been sewing since I was about 8 and professionally for 5 years and I really love fabric and turning it from a flat piece into something wearable and practical.
Cushions, patch style
When/where did you start selling your stuff?
I started this business when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter (she is now 4 1/2) and I did my first market (Bus Depot in Kingston) when I was about ready to pop! Looking back, it was a bit crazy but I guess my brain was addled with hormones or something because it seemed like a good idea at the time! I had my beautiful baby, took a little time to recoup and then did a market every fortnight for about a year... until exhaustion set in and I took a break! It was fun taking my newborn to the markets with me and my husband came along to help out with her but it was harder to find time to sew and get some sleep in, and it was usually the sleep that lost out.

Belt; Childs horse print Tshirt

Shoulder bag circles

I have always had big dreams for my business but I have had to be patient because I am also an at home mother and my kids are a high priority for me. My youngest has two full days at preschool this year and will go to full time school next year so I am excited to have some more time to focus on Red Instead in the next couple of years. Up until now, I have devoted time and energy when I can and tried to use this time well - learning and trying new things, working out production and supply, sorting out bookkeeping and all the other things that go into running a business. I have always said that taking the business slowly is excellent because I can make all my mistakes on a small scale and hopefully by the time that the kids are in school, I will have smoothed out all the problems and will be ready to take on the world!
Original Illustration "Strength"; Original Illustration "Night"

I have recently done a few markets at both Bus Depot Markets (Sundays) and Gorman House Markets (Saturdays) and I think I will do some more markets this year to try out a few new lines and get back in touch with some real time feedback. If you are in Melbourne, you can also see my things at in.cube8r and I have a goal this year to get my stuff into more stores, including Canberra.

My things are always available to buy at my online store

and you can see more about the process at my blog at

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