shop owner allison jones, lark handmade

The December 09 issue of real living goes on sale today and we've featured the shop Lark Handmade. I interviewed Allison Jones about her shop for the magazine but was curious to learn more about the woman behind what's possibly the cutest shop in the world. Here's what she had to say:

Which five words best describe you? Positive, hardworking, excitable, shy, hopeful.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? My first job was delivering newspapers when I was 12. I progressed to babysitting and gardening, and I have been working ever since, except for two brief periods of maternity leave (during which I was planning my current business). I worked in book publishing in Melbourne, London and Cambridge throughout my twenties and early thirties, then I launched Lark after my second son was born.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Setting up fair trade production for Lark's popular knitted toy range. Over the past four years we have made a significant contribution to the 13 villages we support in rural Bangladesh, building schools and midwife centres, and helping small communities to be more self-sufficient. The relationship has enabled us to make beautiful hand-knitted toys that have had amazing feedback from customers.
What’s been your best decision? Making the decision to finally stop working for other people and start my own craft business, which is something I'd always wanted to do. It was pretty scary. My husband was finishing a PhD in art history at the time, and we had two young children, so it was a big financial risk but I knew that I had a good business plan and an idea that I was really passionate about.
Who inspires you? I'm really inspired by the CWA and the older generation of crafters. They are incredibly skilled ladies and can whip up a perfect crochet blanket, patchwork quilt or plate of lamingtons at the drop of a hat. And they are most often crafting for a cause and in a very social way. I think the new generation of crafters like myself have a slightly different agenda as we often need to generate an income from our craft, but there is still a lot we can learn from these women.
What are you passionate about? I am really passionate about a number of issues including fair trade, equality, and childhood development. It is really important to me that my children understand how privileged they are, and that they are aware of advertising and marketing so that they can make the best choices that they can as they grow. Creatively, I am really passionate about working with emerging designers, small handmade businesses and independent retailers to promote diverse, thoughtful and local products as an alternative to mass-production.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? Recently I've been let down by someone who I opened up my business and family to. I've learnt to be a bit more cautious, and to listen to my concerns and confront them straight away in future, although I still believe that it's important to be open and generous with people.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My dad. He died five years ago, just after my second son was born. My dad was the person who taught me that I could do anything I wanted to if I worked hard and believed in myself, and I would love for him to see me now with my two lovely boys and running a successful business. There are quite a few things I'd like to get his advice on, too.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I don't have a big dream or a grand plan for Lark, it has always developed organically, through chance meetings and middle-of-the-night ideas. I'm quite happy with how it is right now, and the reception it has had. For myself and my family, I would like to find time to travel more, to discover new places together.
What are you reading? I am in a book club that meets monthly and I should really be starting on the December book, but I am enjoying a huge pile of magazines instead. I am a magazine junkie, and the start of each month, when the new mags come out, is my favourite time! I also have a list of favourite blogs that I read every day.

images courtesy of lark handmade