Alice Williamson is a 22 year old freelance designer, ballerina and owner of Designed By Alice. Heralding from Hampshire she now lives in London working hard in the dance studio and at her sewing machine. Here she talks about going freelance, Dance For Japan and what she had for breakfast…
In a nutshell describe Designed By Alice.
Well it’s my creative outlet and it will continue to evolve… Presently I am using my knowledge as a dancer to create Ballet skirts and this will progress to other things very soon!
Do we get to know what some of these other things are? Excited.
…not yet, very soon, it is all very exciting!
OK looking forward to seeing that on Designed By Alice. What prompted you to turn a hobby into a business? I know that you have been making beautiful creations for years (the leotards you see in our collaboration pictures were made and designed by Alice and are just some of her creations).
You know, I had never thought of this business really seriously or thought that it could actually succeed!
I had had some experience in selling my work. I created jewellery for exhibitions and sales when I was younger and then at ballet school, as I needed a fund to buy my pointe shoes! [Pointe shoes cost £36 and working professionals can need up to one pair a day like the beautiful Marianela Nunez, principal at the Royal Ballet].
I began making skirt and leotards for myself and other dancers whilst I was at Northern Ballet and Elmhurst! Then I needed a job, with flexible hours to fit around my training, and to create my own business suddenly seemed the solution.
But it wasn’t until I became injured, and subsequently had an operation on my foot, that Designed by Alice came into existence!
As an incapacitated dancer I felt a need to focus on my other creative visions, for both motivational and practical reasons…and it has continued to develop since!
Now I intend to be BOTH a working dancer and designer.
More about your life as a professional ballerina. Tell us about some of the highs and the lows of what must be a very demanding, but wonderful beginnings of a career as a professional ballerina.
Ha Ha, well, I still don’t think of myself as a professional, but I guess I must be by now… life isn’t all you expect, particularly in such a subjective field…but I have had some good experiences and although it might be considered a low, the time when I was injured was also thought provoking. Without it DBA would never have taken off so soon.
I started training quite late. Aged 16 I went to Elmhurst School for Dance when it had just become affiliated with Birmingham Royal Ballet, I spent three years there. I had an interesting time at school, working incredibly hard and meeting loads of interesting people (a high), however nothing prepares you for the real world!
On graduation I was fortunate to get an apprenticeship with Northern Ballet. I learnt a lot (and still am) from all the things I was exposed to in that short time. I was great, dancing with the company and training with the ballet mistress along with 8 shows a weeks when we were toured the UK.
My injury was a low. I didn’t realise just how much damage I had done to my foot. It wasn’t until I left my apprenticeship and began looking for my first ‘proper’ ballet job that it became really bad and I had to have an operation. It took a long time to get myself back in shape and despite my motivation, when you are on your own you just can’t conjure up a professional environment, and it is hard with nobody but yourself for support.
That’s why it suddenly seemed important to use my other strengths to redevelop my identity as a dancer.
Since DBA I have been to Japan and have been lucky enough to perform a mini solo on the fantastic Royal Opera House stage, I guess that is another high, such a fantastic experience!
Amazing businesses often have really inspiring stories behind them and this seems a case in point. I know on our dinner dates in London we have often talked about being ‘freelance’ or ‘self-employed’. What advice would you give to people going it alone?
That’s hard, I feel I am learning all the time. You obviously have to be highly motivated and believe in everything you do, if you don’t love it it’s just not worth all the hours!
It’s quite challenging going it alone, so I have found I really value spending time with my friends who are in similar situations as then we are able to inspire and encourage each other through those difficult moments!
You have been involved with a project Dance For Japan. Can you tell us a little about that?
Dance For Japan is a day of dancing lessons, workshops, raffles and performances from great professionals all put together in an effort to raise money for the Red Cross towards he relief effort in Japan.
The Japanese have a great presence in the dancing community and the news in March was devastating to all of us.
It’s going to be held at the Central School of Dance 28th of May and all levels of dancers are welcome, even my brother is going!
Have been busy making limited edition dance skirts for the day to be sold with t-shirts.
We have just collaborated to create some images for your website. Why would you recommend that artists collaborate with other artists?
It’s important to see things from other perspectives and I value the angles that others may take. You can sometimes become so involved with some “precious” idea that you forget all the other wonderful things that could be done.
For example at our shoot in London, I would never have scaled a tree to such heights without encouragement (haha), but it was worth it and the way you captured the apple blossom against the sky was beautiful.
You live in London. What are your three favourite places in the capital city?
That’s hard as I spend a lot of my time glued to my sewing machine or in a dance studio…but London is a great place to live.
I love walking round Spitalfield Market and Brick Lane on a Sunday.
I think the parks are lovely and just so ‘London’! and i suppose I also love Covent Garden as it often ends up being at the centre of my dancing life in London: I have lots of memories surrounding that place.
I also love Greenwich…and Camden Lock…and the south bank…but only when it’s sunny and not busy with too many tourists!
I think that is more like six places!
Three people who inspire you?
I don’t really have one specific person, I just see objects and things and become inspired by them.
What skirt do you wear from the Designed By Alice collection?
Aggh, that’s hard! I have quite a few…but at the moment I am loving my XS in Grace and of course I wear my staple skirts both XS and M in the lovely black dots fabric.
That’s the great thing about making them … you can wear them all!
That is another reason why I want to offer such control over choice of length, fabric etc. to other dancers: so they feel they are also getting something personal when they choose one of my pieces!
Favourite place you’ve travelled to?
Would you ever consider doing a collection or pieces of clothing for non-dancers? And what would you do?
YES!!! If only I hard more time…one day…watch this space. And I would design dresses! and jewellery! …but really grand pieces!
Your favourite item of clothing at the moment?
An amazing sort of hooded cardigan from when I was in Japan
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
That’s random! Porridge with a banana.
How do photography and dancing work well together in your opinion?
I think it’s fantastic as in dance nothing is ever really recorded and you never really see how you look. As dancers we are so critical of ourselves that no movement we make ends up either looking of feeling exactly as we want it all the time, but with photography you can capture the good moment, and cement it. It is completely different from dance, and it is lovely to be able to have a static beautiful memory of a movement to keep as opposed in dance when things don’t always repeat in such a ‘good’ way!
What would you be if you weren’t a designer/artist/ballerina? You are so many things so it might be hard for you to think of an alternative.
Hmm, well I am not sure … I have been always been interested in so many things and if I hadn’t of had such a love for my dancing and my art I think I would have found it difficult.
I quite like being different and ploughing my own route, so I probably would have devised some other career by myself.
Having said that, part of me is really interested in medicine (especially with my brother studying at the moment) I think I would have probably gone down that route. Yes that is my answer, Medicine.
What was the last thing you made and do you have a picture? 😉
Well I think it was a mini elephant, about an inch tall, black with jointed arms and wearing a little dress ..!
Ha ha .. I sometimes get distracted from work.
No picture .. but I’ll send you a picture of another of my recent creatures! It’s a bear.
Beautiful bear handmade by Alice!
What will you always make time for?
Friends + stretching!!!
What is your favourite photograph from Diana Patient Photography shoot?
You can see my photographs of Alice’s beautiful skirts all over her website now at www.designedbyalice.co.uk.
Hope you enjoyed hearing about Alice. I wish her all the success in the world. If you would like to be part of my series, TIME WITH INTERESTING PEOPLE, let me know. I would love to hear from you.