The Two of Us | Bonnie Ashley + Neil Downie
Dynamic Melbourne-based husband and wife team Bonnie Ashley and Neil Downie are founders of Bonnie and Neil, a textile and homeware business which is greatly successful in the design business. The talented couple create their range of vibrant handprinted homewares, soft furnishings, furniture and soon to be released range of flooring products, from their workshop in Brunswick. The pair share with us their design journey, their love of beautiful botanicals and what they love most about working as a team.
Hi Bonnie and Neil - tell us about how you first met? Neil: We actually met at design school in Christchurch many years ago now, since then we’ve travelled to and lived in London before making the decision to move to Melbourne where we’ve been living since 2003.
What first sparked the decision to work together? Bonnie: Our backgrounds in floristry, fine art, textiles, furniture making and set design - it’s the combination of these that brought our label to life. Our skills complement each other so it just made sense that one day we would end up going into business together.
Have you both always worked in the creative field? Yes, in some capacity or another.
What do you love most about what you do? Bonnie: Seeing how people embrace our designs and translate them into their own creative space. Whether they’re a stylist or a homemaker, we’re inspired by seeing our products in a different context.
What are your roles at Bonnie and Neil - who does what? Neil: We are both directors of the business but we wear many hats. At a very high level, Bonnie is responsible for the creative direction and sales side of the business while I am operation and production focused, but we both get our hands dirty making products – and we’re a small team so sometimes we’re unloading couriers and packing boxes too!
What are your main sources of inspiration for your collections? Bonnie: The creative process is always happening in the background, we are constantly inspired by our surroundings so there's no shortage of ideas. We might be working on a new collection but parking ideas for future collections (and also custom projects) at the same time. We take inspiration from nature, our travels, historical textile design, art and photography.
Botanicals are a constant feature in your work - why are they such an important element? Neil: Bonnie’s background as a florist means our home is always filled with flowers and plants. We also enjoy getting out and about in nature every day, even if we only have time for a walk in the local park with our dogs.
What does design mean to you? Design should bring a sense of happiness and evoke some sort of feeling and connection with the product, as well as being functional and of great quality.
Bonnie, what's Neil greatest strength? His ability to get things done in a clever way, and his big picture view on our business as a whole.
Neil - what does Bonnie bring to the partnership which is especially unique? Being able to jump between the creative design side of the business, creating new artwork and products, to the business side of the running our business.
What’s in store for you in 2017? We’ve just launched our latest collaboration, a range of flooring products with Byzantine Design which we’re very excited about. Flooring is an area we’ve been wanting to move into for some time, so these vinyl rugs and porcelain tiles are a big win in that department. We’re also launching our SS18 collection, Resort, which includes a new range of hand painted ceramics all painted by Bonnie.