Alison with one of her stencils
The healing power of art
Illustrating a children's book about Alnwick Garden helped County Durham-based artist and designer Alison Best get her life back on track after serious illness and now she is looking forward to the future.
When serious illness ended Alison Best's career in the public sector she slumped into a trough.
But after a difficult period, including spending two years on incapacity benefit, she is now in the process of firmly putting her life back on track.
The artist and designer has set up her own business and is gaining a reputation for her work. It has included illustrating a children's book which has recently been launched at Alnwick Garden.
She said: "I had lost the will to live. I didn't want to get out of bed."
Don and Alison with their book at Alnwick Gardens
Alison's sister Anne agreed it was a tough time.
She said: "Everybody was desperately trying to find ways to help. It was a desperate situation."
Their brother, author and publisher Don H Williams, had been working on a children's story about Alnwick Garden and he and Anne approached Alison with the idea she should do the illustrations for it.
The book, Monkey Business in the Treehouse, tells the story of monkeys and a fox which are on an engraved urn in Alnwick Garden, and their adventures after the garden's gates are shut.
Alison said she was reluctant at the time, but now can't underestimate how much working on it has helped her.
She said: "I was ill that day. I was thinking they were off their trollies.
"If you told me two years ago I would have a book out, I would never have believed it.
Alison is inspired by nature for her designs
"My life had to be put together. The book helped. The characters seemed to come to life for me.
"It has changed my life. Although I don't know what's going to happen, I am more happy now."
The result is a beautifully illustrated book. Each illustration is packed with detail and the idea is that parents will be able to talk about what is in them with their children.
The book means there are now three published authors in the family. Don has a string of titles to his name and Anne has written books as well as being a World speed reading champion.
Alison studied fine art at university and started out as a teacher before moving on to her career in the public sector.
Since returning to art, she has developed a style called expressionist stencils, which take Alison's deep love of nature, flowers and plants as their inspiration.
Alison hopes to work with interior designers
The process of creating the stencils is quite intense and involves drawing the designs and then hand cutting the stencils in different materials.
She is interested in getting involved with regeneration projects and work with interior designers and architects.
Alison said she had received a great deal of support in setting up her business. As well as the support of her family she has been helped by organisations including Jobcentre Plus, Broker North East, Business Link, the Arts Council and arcadea.
She had an exhibition at The Lamplight Arts Centre, in Stanley, in March and exhibited her work at the North East Arts Expo at Newcastle's Ouseburn in May.
Alison also has an MBA and hopes to use her business experience to help support other artists in the area.
last updated: 24/04/2008 at 12:41