Friday Finds - Illustrator Allison Hullyer

Good morning! Today's Friday finds is Illustrator Alison Hullyer with whom I did an Arts Foundation course at the end of the 1980's in Cambridge before we all went our separate ways to different art colleges. 

© Alison Hullyer

When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? Tell us your story of how “Alison Hullyer Illustration" came to be!

After graduating in 1990 from Newcastle University with a degree in graphic design, I worked in a gallery in Cambridge for 18 months and then went travelling around India and Nepal for four months culminating in an exhibition of my work a few months after I returned.  I then developed my business properly in 1992, calling it ‘Deckled Edge Designs’.  It was mostly hand-made cards printed onto paper with a deckle-edge, hence the name. I supplied shops all over the country including the V&A.

© Alison Hullyer

Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?

I had help from the Prince’s Trust.  I wrote a business plan and presented it to a panel of experts, a bit like an early version Dragon’s Den.  They agreed to lend me £1000 to buy a reconditioned etching press.  I paid back the money, interest free over three years.  I was also given a business mentor and the chance to have a stand at two Trade Fairs at the NEC.  The Trade Fair was the turning point in my career, as apart from being awarded a silver medal and meeting Prince Charles, I also met my first publishing company, Stone Marketing. I went on to design around 400 cards and products for them.

© Alison Hullyer

Do you do your business part time or full time? 

Full time.

© Alison Hullyer

Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why? 

Now my children are teenagers I have more time for work, so I would like to grow it further.  Ideally I would like to license more of my designs onto other products, such as fabric, tins, mugs and homeware.  I have a few of my own products such as tea towels and coasters but would prefer for someone else to handle the production, marketing and distribution side.

If this is your full time job do you mind saying what your approximate turnover is annually (before costs and expenses)? 

I fluctuate around the tax threshold and try to keep it just below.

Where do you sell your work? 

Most of my card and stationery designs are licensed to Phoenix Trading.  I have worked freelance for them for the last 12 years.  I have also licensed some of my fine art printmaking designs to Green Pebble.  I have taken part in Cambridge Open Studios every July, since 1995.  It’s a great way for the general public to see what I do and for me to get instant feedback about what people like.  I am also involved in organising the Cambridge Christmas Show and I am taking part for the first time at the Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair in November.  Cambridge Original Printmakers is also a new event taking place in September and I have been busy designing their publicity material.  I also sell my prints and tea towels through Cambridge Contemporary Crafts and Haddenham Galleries.  In Hebden Bridge, the Heart Gallery has just received their first order of my new Bike tea towels to coincide with the start of the Tour de France.  I also have a website of my own and sell through Facebook.

© Alison Hullyer

Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?

Licensing my designs is the most consistent and well paid part of the business, but I like the immediacy of selling direct to customers too. 

© Alison Hullyer - three of the wraps Alison did for Phoenix Trading

Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?

Not so far.  But I did feature recently in a schools program for the BBC about artists who use nature in their work.

Who do you think your typical customer is?

I have a big range of customers that I try to cater for on the publishing side and fine-art side.  My new Bike tea towels have gone down particularly well with men.
But I think it is predominantly women that buy my work.

© Alison Hullyer

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most? 

Probably the printmaking but I have to be realistic and also making a living.  I never get tired of seeing one of my new cards or a wrapping paper design in print.

Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?

I probably would turn down the order for 6000 hand-made cards I had several years ago from WH Smith.  I never thought I’d get them done in time! I am much better at saying “no thanks” to things these days.

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?

Instinctive but with a few goals on the horizon.

© Alison Hullyer

Have you ever or do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business? For example, book keeper, accountant, packers? If you do how did you find people who were the right fit for you?

I have an accountant who does my tax return, but I do the general book keeping.  I may need a tea towel folder if things really take off with them!

Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing?

I have a small study in the house where I do all my design work and my etching press is out in the garage for when I need to print.  I could really do with more space and I am looking into having a garden studio, when funds allow.  We have dog, so I am forced to leave the house at least twice a day.  On my dog walks I often come up with new ideas, so it’s a valuable part of the day.

 © Alison Hullyer

Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?

I was always very resistant to join ‘social media’ and still don’t tweet, but I have found facebook a great way to connect with other like-minded people and fellow artists.  My children are also very good at telling me when something I am working on isn’t working.

What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?

I start work about 9:15am, after the first dog walk of the day.  Answer emails, quick look on facebook and then down to work.  It could be coming up with some new card ideas, working on something commissioned by Phoenix Trading or developing a new tea towel design.  I have lunch any time between 12 and 2, another walk and then back to work until everyone gets home from school and work and declares they are hungry.  I sometimes work late if there is a deadline.  Of course I also have to fit in all the boring stuff like food shopping, washing and house work. My dream day would be a day out sketching in the country-side or by the sea, a pub lunch and some good wine. I would also love to go back to India one day and visit the south this time.

Anything else  you want to add… tips or ambitions . . .

Tips: don’t give up if one publisher doesn’t accept your work, it’s always worth trying several and think about where your style fits best.

Ambition: I would love to see my designs on a huge range of products.

Finally please tell us where we can buy your work! Links please 

My blog is: "



Brilliant Alison, you've done some amazing work and I look forward to seeing your work on more things - I share your ambition! Hope this weekend is full of sales  :)


  1. Thanks for featuring me Gabriella. Best wishes with all your projects I love following your work, it's very inspiring. Alison x

  2. Lovely blog! Well done Alison, and hello Gabriella ...

  3. This is such a lovely interview! I sat down with a cup of coffee and was looking for something to read. I've been so engrossed in the interview that I still have half my coffee left :). Lovely questions, answers and imagery!x


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