Together with her husband, furniture designer Neil Downie, Bonnie Ashley launched one of Australia’s most popular independent textile design studios, Bonnie and Neil, in 2010. With a shared love of color, the pair’s intuitive approach to design integrates traditional printing methods with their own unique applications. Every item in their vibrant collection is created by hand in their Melbourne studio.
"Don’t overthink it! You will always find a million and one reasons not to do it. Having some big dreams and working towards them is the best way forward."
What was the pivot point that set you on your current path? Where were you then? Where are you now?
After many years working as a designer, I really wanted to design for myself and was a bit burnt out from working long hours in flower wholesaling. Neil shared the vision that we could create our own business, and our friends and family gave us the final nudge with words of encouragement and support. Today, our products are available in some beautiful stores both in Australia and internationally. We get to travel the world meeting new people and checking out amazing places, and ultimately working on a business that is our own, creating and making products that we love. We are still having “pinch me” moments, but we’ve worked really hard to get here and have so many more opportunities to explore.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s going through their own transformation?
Don’t overthink it! You will always find a million and one reasons not to do it. Having some big dreams and working towards them is the best way forward.
Are you following the path of a trailblazer or being guided by a mentor?
Creatively I’m guided by the artist Sally Smart who is also a dear friend and mentor. The way that Sally researches and then translates her creative ideas into her work is inspiring.
If you could do anything, what in the world would you want to do next?
It’s my dream one day to create the ultimate huge outdoor space that brings together all of my favourite floral and garden ideas.
Where in the world would you describe as the place that speaks to you - your soul place?
Peru is on our wish list for future adventures. The landscape and culture hold so much creative appeal, as well as their use of pattern, colour and embellishments in textiles. Neil and I are also big fans of Peruvian food, both cooking it at home and dining out, so we’d love to try the real deal.
All images used with permission from Bonnie Ashley.