Tonight’s Friday Feature is the very last one here on our mini blog site before we move to our fancy new website over on Ladylockdesigns.co.uk! And, we thought there was no better send off we could give our starter home than to give it a final Friday Feature from the amazing Sonneva Benstead of Fennie Designs. Sonneva has been a member of LLD’s business mentoring scheme since the beginning and seeing her fabulous work develop to new heights has been incredible so far. So go and get yourself cosy, grab a brew, and get ready to learn a little bit more about this fantastic artist so you can love her as much as we do!
As most people know, you are one of the original LLD Scheme members and most people know of your business name, but what is Fennie?
Crikey that feels like a lifetime ago now! But yes, I’ve been here from the start! I wouldn’t change it for the world. (Not actually sure what I would do without my Lisa)
Ooo erm, well Fennie is a silly word close to my heart… I found out at a much later date that it is actually a name too, but to me, and my family, it will always be my daughter’s word for ‘seven’! At age 2-3 she always counted, 1,2,3,4,5,6,fennie,8,9,10…. We have no idea where it came from, but when I was thinking of names for my little business, I wanted something generic, so that my creativity and artistic flare () could develop and grow! It just fitted and we, hubby and I couldn’t even entertain anything else!
You are a mum of two, how difficult is it to run a business from home?
O my life… difficult is an understatement… I would have said it was easier once my daughter was in full time school, but that’s not true. My dreams, plans and workload increased… so it’s just as hard, if not actually much harder now than it was last year. Partially my fault for actually producing art that people actually want to buy and commission, partially Lisa’s fault for helping me focus my vision. Producing personalised versions of my art is particularly satisfying, but takes that little bit extra time.
My son is very demanding, so I do lose most of my day to play time, but once I’ve picked up my daughter, fed the family, and we’ve go the kids to bed…off I creep to my home studio (spare room), working til the wee hours…
Did you always want to be an artist? And if so what other jobs have you had?
I wish wish wish I’d had the determination in my teens, for my art, that I have now…during my A level art I didn’t have the support I needed to believe in it, I therefore didn’t believe in myself. I went to uni, thinking I’d be sensible and do a degree that I could then follow with a PGCE…. I did Theology & Religious Studies! (I know!) although I loved the subjects… it really wasn’t for me. I dropped out at the beginning of my 3rd year.
From 16-18 I worked every weekend at the local garage, then kept working there when I was home during time off from Uni… whilst at uni I worked mornings at a bakery, and evenings and weekends as a silver service waitress!
The jobs that then followed…
Data Input (healthcare)
Customer Services (healthcare)
Admin Assistant (fraud prevention)
Sales Engineer (cellar gas)
Data Processor/Admin Assistant (fraud prevention)
Accounts Assistant (fraud prevention)
Personal Assistant (fraud prevention)
Personal & Team Assistant/Release Coordinator (fraud prevention)
Slimming World Consultant… though you can’t really tell that now!
Blimey! I’ve never listed them all!!
What’s your biggest pet hate and love?
Pet hate…. Noisey eating!!!
Pet love…. Erm… I’ll have to come back to that!
Do you have any other hobbies besides juggling a family and a business?
I have developed a little obsession with running obstacles races of late… I’ve done three this year, and looking to to at least two plus a half marathon next year!
What other crafts do you like to do or learn?
I love FELTING! I recently had the chance to learn from the gorgeous Carla at Cut by Hand… I’m still learning but it’s so lovely to do something totally different to the ‘day job’
How do your different ranges come into being?
Generally by accident… I suppose everything starts from the natural world… I love how the world changes with the seasons and you may have guessed I have a thing for cats… people see my designs, and often challenge me with their custom slots, with different settings, different animals. Certain people, Lisa, quite often challenge me to go smaller!
My panel designs were my biggest and most successful accident. A lovely lady, by the name of Sharon Curran, saw five seasonal bookmarks I’d drawn up, all side by side and suggested they looked pretty good together. Next came my ‘Bugs’…. Panels have very much become my signature style, and they are continually developing!
And why do your Panimals have no faces?
Oooo good question…. I honestly don’t think they need faces. They say everything they need to in the movement I show with their positions, their colourings, their surroundings. I love that any one person might interpret each character slightly differently to the next. I know their true character in my heart, I like to keep that there, and for others to let their hearts speak to them…
Tell us what’s currently happening for Fennie Designs?
Most recently I had a bit of a crazy week… on the Monday I delivered a new range ‘Stoke in Colour’ specifically designed to be exhibited and sold at Middleport Pottery, and on the Thursday, I delivered some hand finished prints to Yellowstone Art Boutique. Both of which are local to me. I’m really looking to build on these relationships and I would love to spread further afield in the future!
What’s your worst habit?
Eeek…. Using too many dot dot dots… for dramatic pauses! Who doesn’t love a dramatic pause…?
Tell us your funniest joke?
What’s the difference between a Snowman and a Snowoman….?
Hahahaha I laughed too much at that!
How do you manage to balance the creative side of your business with the development and promotional needs your business has so well?
To be truthful, I see myself as a bit of a mess with all that still. Lisa and her groups keep me focussed on any deadlines for the Emporiums within LLD. My diary keeps me focussed on commission slots… if ever I get a bit behind, for whatever the reason, I keep in contact with my customers. I show them progress shots, and I keep them up to date as to where I am. Good customer relations is so vital to every part of my business. Being honest with your customers goes such a long way, and before you know it they are the ones at the forefront of your development and promotion!
Aside from this, networking and good relations within your industry is vital to keep your social media pages in people’s newsfeeds…
Would you say you are an art hoarder?
Shhhhh how could you suggest I’m a hoarder? I merely collect and store, many many many artworks from a few (many) select artists…. Occasionally I might have a few (many) pieces from each
Who are your favourite artists?
Ah! This is a serious toughy!! I have so many friends I want to name here! I’m not god at choosing favourites of anything… hence why I still haven’t come back to my ‘pet love’ question!
Anyone who knows me, knows my love of Papercutting came from discovering Louise Firchau of Paper Panda, so she absolutely needs a mention…
A handful of others are:
Clare Lindley – Papercutter Girl
Marnie Maurri – Marnie makes
Carla Bagshaw – Cut by Hand
Anna Goadby – Crafts from a Writing Desk
Sarah King – Apple Seed Papercuts
But this is literally scratching the surface! There are so so many I love, they know exactly who they are too, and I have work from each of them…
If you could go back in time and give yourself any advice in your teens, what would it have been?
Listen to your heart… it was right
What advice would you offer others, who are trying to create their own corner of self-employed heaven?
Don’t do it entirely alone… talk to family, friends, let them into your bubble… find online communities within you chosen industry/art… take advice, believe in yourself, and above all else, know that what you are doing is important! Then find yourself a Lisa! One of those is invaluable
What’s in store for Fennie Designs?
At this moment in time? I actually don’t know for sure… I would love to expand into more local stockists and further afield, develop my illustrations, some more awesome collaborations with the amazing Rodica, some new collaborations with the incredible Lee-Ann at Not Just Paper Boutique… I’d love to take part in some bigger exhibitions too… watch this space, as they say!
To see more of Sonneva’s work, go to:
And that, Lockettes, was our last Friday Feature before we dance over to our new website! You’ve had snowballs, Panimals, a peek at Sonneva’s desk and we now can’t miss seeing how many “…’s” show up in Sonneva’s responses. What a fab way to start our weekend. Happy Friday everyone! You can find next week’s Friday feature – which you also don’t want to miss (!!!) over on www.ladylockdesigns.co.uk.