Kristina Benson comes from a long line of artists – and it seems only natural that her passion for creating and expressing herself has developed into two successful businesses in western Canada, while also encouraging other like minded people to do the same.
Living in Kamloops, BC, Kristina has been working in the creative industry for over a decade. She started Dansk Design Group, a high-end graphic design company, 10 years ago, in part as a way to remember her late father and commemorate her Danish heritage.
In early 2016, Kristina added another adventure to her quest – painting and creating artwork that would soon become the inspiration and cause to launch a local clothing company celebrating self-awareness, the benefits of yoga and art within reality.
Kristina Benson Art makes Wearable Art, right here in Canada, and though the brand launched in 2016, Kristina has been successful in marketing her merchandise to customers across the globe.
We connected with this passionate and positive businesswoman with a keen eye for progressiveness to learn more about her journey to painting paradise.
- Design has always been a passion of yours. When did it all begin?
My grandmother was a landscape oil painter and artist. My father designed and built custom homes. And my mother designs the most glorious gardens. Throughout my childhood, my life had been surrounded by influential people who naturally created something from nothing — a sense of design seemed to just “be” a part of life. I actually never took an art class in high school because we were restricted on the number of electives we could choose. Instead, I spent time learning to design on the computer in drafting class. I was encouraged to choose a career in the trades versus a risky art career as there was an assumption that tradespeople would always have a job. But after leaving high school, I quickly realized this may not be the case. In addition, I really disliked math, therefore drafting was probably not the best career choice.
There was a natural wander over to graphic design. I researched universities and got accepted, after the second attempt, into Emily Carr University in Vancouver.
Through the design program in university, did I realize that I had a secret obsession with typography, a love of print design and an eye for photography and colour. I graduated with a Bachelor of Design with a Major in Communication Design.
Emily Carr gave me the foundation in design to start my career. I had these amazing teachers that still inspire me today with what they taught me through school.
Starting a business fresh out of design school was also a natural choice as it played into my highly self-motivated character and aspirations of becoming a successful female business owner.
- “Dansk” means Danish and in your logo, you have a traditional Scandinavian viking ship. The name and logo of this design company represents things that are both clean and stylish. How has Danish culture impacted you, personally? How did it lead you to create the name for Dansk Design Group?
Interestingly enough, my father passed away a month before I entered my fourth year at Emily Carr. That was a tough, tough year to get through. I almost gave up and didn’t go back to complete my education, if it wasn’t for my mom encouraging me. After I graduated, I came back to my hometown in Kamloops and started Dansk Design Group from the ground up. In honour of my father’s company (Dansk Construction), I asked my Uncle Ben’s permission to proudly carry on that company name representing our family and Danish heritage — even though I did not go into construction.
I am a first-born Canadian, as both my mother and father immigrated from Denmark in the 50s. This is how Dansk Design Group came to be. I feel my Danish heritage is ingrained in my roots as my work has always had a modern sense of design with clean lines, simple aesthetics and good use of white space.
- What’s it like owning and operating a design studio in Kamloops, BC?
Owning a studio in Kamloops has had its ups and downs but the benefits of local lifestyle, nature and being close to my family is worth it. There are different kinds of design opportunities in a smaller city than a large urban centre.
- Of course, you’re creative type, but you also have a passion for being active and living a healthy lifestyle. Both of these passions have lead you to create Kristina Benson Art. You make beautiful leggings, workout gear, scarves, capris, etc., each with a beautiful and unique work of art (Wearable Art, that is). What’s the hardest part about managing two companies and brands?
The experience of owning Dansk Design Group has been beneficial in guiding me as I was creating this second company — Kristina Benson Art. Earlier in 2016, my heart called me to get back into painting again — I followed that inspiration and combined my love of art and design with my love of yoga. In a short six-months, it has been a wild and fulfilling ride! I’d never imagine I would have had an online shop designing my art into a clothing line.
As far as managing two companies and brands, I love business, art and design and when I’m in that place of creating, it all flows easily. The hardest part is keeping a balance which I can be thankful for yoga and running. Because of the experience, I have running the design business, elements such as website management, client liaison, contracts, accounting and organizing come fairly easy.
One of the best parts of Kristina Benson Art is that I am my own client and I am limited only to my own imagination! Any graphic designer will tell you that client constraints are often the hardest part of design, restricted because a client wants a project to look a certain way. Creating art is very freeing.
- Being in charge of a brand is a wonderful accomplishment, but there are of course always set-backs along the way. Do you ever give yourself a pep talk?
Yes – every day! I have learned to “listen” to my inner voice to help guide me on making decisions. Most people can probably identify with me, as when I started Kristina Benson Art, my ego was very loud. As my divine was thrilled to be painting again, my ego would say things like, “Seriously! You think you are just going to paint now?” It took all of me to say, “YES! This is what I need to do.”
Each day or week or month, I find I go through phases of shifting my dialogue and inner thinking that best supports me. These daily acknowledgments are crucial for my routine. I post them around my house as gentle reminders. A few I’ve felt in the last month include: Be strong, be gentle, amidst the storm I have overcome, the best is yet to come, I am enough, my art touches lives, my leggings empower women because of the messages. I am constantly learning, seeking and growing. Often these words I hear, merged with the beauty I see in the world, become inspiration for my art.
- On kristinabensonart.com, you outline what different artwork on various items of clothes mean, highlighting their significance. What types of methods do you use when creating these different patterns?
I’m in love with using various different mediums and exploring all sorts of new ways to make marks on paper, sketchbooks and canvases. These pieces start out sometimes as photographs I have taken, or using very fine brushstrokes, I will paint a landscape scene with acrylic paint, or using fine tipped art markers I will create an illustration. I love to splatter paint. I love using sea sponges. I love playing with large paintbrushes and creating big paintings… and I love combining all of these together, to create what’s in my head!
- Do you have a favourite product for sale right now?
Every time I design a new piece, I declare, “This one is my favourite!” That quickly changes each time I create a new piece. So – I’ve done that 35 times now. And then again over 20 times for the new 2017 Collection!
- The main hub to access and purchase your Wearable Art is on your website. But you also have a studio. How do you manage both?
Yes, the online shop is at kristinabensonart.com. People can easily order online and the product is shipped to them within 10 to 15 business bays. We deliver to Canada, the USA and Europe. I use one studio for all design and art I create. As you can imagine, I have a plethora of drawings, paintings, photos and inspiration plastered all over my walls. Design and art come hand in hand for me. They play off on each other. You can’t have one without the other.
- What has been the most rewarding part about producing Wearable Art and supporting local products, all “Made In Canada?”
My customers have absolutely been the most rewarding part of Kristina Benson Art! I didn’t expect to meet so many amazing ladies! My customers have some amazing stories. And my art gives people a chance to open up and talk about their lives.
My art often comes from a vulnerable place — things that I’ve been through. I have taken that first step of putting myself out there — my vulnerability and stories. I hear their stories; how they purchased the “Let Go” pair of leggings because that is exactly where they are in their life and want to declare that intention by wearing that message; or they purchased the “Overcome” for a good friend who is going through a really tough time and they are in the storm of life and want a reminder to be strong; or how they purchased the “Surrender” pair because that is their underlying theme when they teach their yoga students about surrendering to their body in class.
- Tell us about the “Pants Party” you host every month and, how can our readers get involved?
Pants Parties are a blast! It is great fun and ladies get to see the products and try them on in person. They also get to meet me as I delve into explaining some of the artwork in person. [Pants Parties] are a great excuse to get together some friends. For 2017, I will be travelling and am booking Pants Parties in Vancouver, Kelowna Kamloops and Calgary. If readers are interested in booking, contact me anytime.
- Kristina Benson Art is active on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Which social media outlet Social media looks easy from afar – but strategizing and planning can be really time consuming and complicated. What are a few tips you’ve learned throughout your journey with Kristina Benson Art?
It is a gentle beast that you just need to practice patience with — that’s my advice. Oh, and find someone younger than you that is better at it than you — they’ll teach you what you need to know to get started. I am grateful for my team!
- Your work takes a lot of creative brain power and energy. How do you stay motivated and alert?
Creating is just a part of me. It always has been. Not only that, but I am a vessel of love and i feel it is my responsibility to share that love! Sometimes inspiration strikes at 7am or 2pm or 10pm at night. I do my best to go with that flow.
- Living in BC, you have access to beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies. Do you have a favourite place to explore in that province?
I am so lucky to live here in BC. When I’m out and about exploring with my dog, Tuxedo, I truly feel that everything around me is my backyard. I am so grateful to be surrounded in an abundance of trails and beauty literally minutes from my doorstep. Nature provides a lot of my inspiration, from the trails and trees to amazing sunsets and views.
- How do you ensure Kristina Benson Art and Dansk Design Group are not only reputable brands, but also brands that support members of your community?
I have an Ambassador program where I choose passionate, driven, amazing females who do good in our community – women who are yoga teachers, studio owners or active representatives in their healthy active lifestyles. They are making a difference in their community — and I support them with unique and beautiful clothes that support their intentions. It’s the ripple-effect. They also give me feedback that helps me to make a better brand, product and message.
- What would you tell other entrepreneurs, creators and artists who are working to expand their brands and find success?
Your divine is louder than your ego, if you just take the time to listen. You [will] actually always know deep inside if you are on the right path. It is up to you to choose to listen to that voice or not! As a recovering perfectionist, my most important advice is — to just start! If you wait until each component of the business is all planned out, you may have missed out. Capture that inspiration you have inside to start something for yourself.
In February, Kristina is launching her 2017 Collection. She has over 20 designs translated into over 60 pieces (including leggings, capris, yoga leggings, scarves and beanies). You can order your Wearable Art at kristinabensonart.com.
Kristina says, “[This year brings] new art from the heart, new inspiration and new intentions. This art is about sharing my love and sharing my gift. It is about empowering you and making you feel unique and beautiful. The best part is that I get to create on the most dynamic canvas — YOU!”
In the featured photo, Kristina Benson is wearing Featherscape yoga leggings (2017 Collection). Photo by: Kelly Funk Photography.