The Ailist – What its really like to be a designer maker?

Ailish Henderson shares her view on the world of embroidery - it's the Ailist!

What its really like to be a designer maker? Or actually….what am I?

The spring show season will soon be upon us.  I personally cannot believe it was nearly a year ago for my exhibition gallery at The Knitting and Stitching show in London.  (keep up to date with my work via my website)

I often get asked the question asked in this articles title – what is it really like to be a designer / artist?  Due to a lack of understanding, it is easy for observers to not fully appreciate the work that is put in by the individual, in this case me.  Thus I thought I would use my column this month; as a kind of “meet the maker” – or at least a shortened version.

I have asked myself a few interview questions and answered them here, so that you all get to know me a bit better…..

What do you describe your ‘role’ as?

This is a question I really hate – so I am tackling it now…

I currently:

Teach and lecture about textiles and related subjects.

Develop my own line of Printed Textiles.

Do other types of artwork.

Editor-in-Chief of Mr X Stitch.

Write for magazines on occasion.

How can I categorise myself?  Oh to have a 9-5 where I simply reply that I am in ‘retail’.  However that would never have been me – I need to have this many things on the go – so I can only blame myself!  I have classed myself in my title as a ‘designer maker’ however really, I have yet to find one sum it all up word or title.  If anyone has any ideas based on my specific practice, please do tell!

What drives you to create?

I have never felt I have had a choice in the matter.  There was never a day in history where I had a career change or suddenly decided to become an artist – I simply am.

I am quite a black and white person, I say it as it is – thus this comes out in my work, even when it may not be exactly obvious to others.

I view my work as more of a visual diary. I can look back at a piece and remember when and why I created it – for example, when developing the concept behind this piece ‘Pistachio Smiles’, I had exact memories to work from; capturing a moment in time.

designer maker pistachio smiles
Pistachio Smiles (2016)

Do you ever work in collaboration with others?

Yes and no.  I find myself inspired by other artists and I do work with Art Galleries and companies on a commission basis; however I have never been involved in a direct artist collaboration.

Last year I was asked by Craft Design House to develop a line of Printed Textiles for The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow to idolise their ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ exhibition.  So really, that’s where my style of ‘collaboration; fits in at present.

How do you make a living from what you do?

As explained in brief above, I do teach and lecture on a freelance basis.  This means that admittedly whilst it is good money when you get it, it takes time and effort as well as commitment to find it!  It also requires understanding – there will be lots of times with zero money coming in!

I am also building my Printed Textiles Collection – basically a purchasable line of scarves; with other items available on request.  I have some collections available to buy through my website.

A piece from my ‘Gallery Set’ collection.

What’s the future?

This year I will be planning a professional shoot – capturing my pieces the best I can, so that I have a higher quality of folio available to view.


So, there you go, a little about me – a designer maker, or whatever I am!

Recent Posts