I'm so happy to be featuring a designer interview with Alexia Marcelle Abegg today. Alexia is a fabric designer, pattern designer, ceramicist, and artist. She is also a beautiful writer and photographer, as you will as you keep reading.
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Strike offs of Alexia's newest line, Moonrise. All photos courtesy of Alexia Marcelle Abegg
1. Tell us a little about your pottery and your evolving creative journey.
Last summer I experienced what I can now identify as creative burnout. At the time I was dealing with some big, unsolvable problems in my career. I knew that changes were needed but the solutions were too far in the future to provide immediate clarity or relief, and it really caused me to step back and ask myself some big questions. "Have I chosen a path that is too difficult to make work as a career?" "Do I still love the creative thing that I turned into my job?" In the midst of burnout I honestly did not have an answer, so I decided to regroup and step away (as much as one can while still trying to run two businesses) for a moment.
I had many late night conversations with my husband, who is also an artist, and my friends and family, and through those discussions I learned so much about myself and the burnout I was experiencing. I took some college classes, including college algebra and trigonometry, I was contemplating going back to school full time. I also knew that a couple classes would give me focus and some very achievable, concrete goals while everything else was up in the air. Focusing on something else for a moment allowed me to step back and see some of the problems I was experiencing more clearly. A couple of my big realizations were that I had been thinking too much about what will sell, and it was dampening my creative voice. I also saw in hindsight that the pace at which I had been making art for fabric was too swift, and was based on old models in the industry, not on my own creative cycle. I held onto these ideas and many others, I knew I would apply them to whatever came next for me in the textile and sewing world, and waited patiently for that path to become clear.
I had heard from other artists that they often felt a rekindling of their creative energy when learning something new so I signed up for a pottery class last August, and talked my sister into taking it with me. I felt an instant connection to making with clay, and was energized by the challenge of being a complete beginner. I have spent a lot of my creative time in this last year practicing and learning as much as possible about making pottery and am in love with the medium.
A few months in I started to feel my energy shift. The fog started to clear, and I felt excited about making things again. Not only was I excited about making pottery, I felt a rekindled interest in textiles, sewing and quilting. I felt like myself again, but with the strength and knowledge that comes from working through a difficult time. I feel solid about my work in both ceramics and textiles/sewing, and my voice is coming in loud and clear. I feel confident in the path ahead, and I hope to keep the warning signs of burnout in mind daily as I attempt to manage my creative career. From this process of burnout recovery came my new website and a clear vision of how to mesh my work in both sewing/quilting/textiles and pottery. I'm still working on different elements of this big picture, but I'm not rushing it, I want to take all the time I need so that the roots can run deep and I have room to grow.
2. Where do you find inspiration for your work? Does it differ based on the medium, i.e. textile design, pottery, or pattern design?
I think mosts artists I know are like sponges, the world around them is being constantly absorbed. I am no different, and it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint specific inspirations. I do find though that I often turn to my childhood for inspiration, my parents are both creative and that made for a very unique environment as a child. They made a point to include creative activities in our daily lives, and we also travelled a lot when I was growing up, these two things continue to influence my life as an artist. I also crave new experiences, which can be anything really, traveling to a new place, trying a food I've never tried, sewing a garment I've never attempted to make, these things spark my creativity. I think I also glean a lot of inspiration from my library of sewing, art, and craft books. I find that if I'm generally inspired it applies to everything I do, regardless of the medium.
The Mesa Quilt Pattern, inspired by Alexia's love of the Southwest, is for sale here!
3. Do you have a place you like to visit that always leaves you creatively inspired?
Without fail there are two places that make me feel endlessly inspired, the American Southwest, and New York City and all of its boroughs. These are two places that make my soul vibrate with creative excitement.
4. What does your workspace look like? Do you have different spaces for textile design, pottery, pattern design, sewing, etc?
My workspace is constantly evolving, and as I'm sure most people can relate, finding an affordable space is a challenge. I recently had to move out of a unique old factory building because it was being renovated by developers. That space was beautiful and inspiring but was freezing in the winter and unbearable in the summer, not to mention the roof leaks and other problems. Oh, the things we put up with to have a beautiful, cheap space!
I moved some of my operations into my parent's spare room, and worked some from home until last winter I found a perfect little workspace in my neighborhood. It is lacking in the beautiful patina of a factory building, but has functional heat and air, and is clean and new, and gets the best afternoon sun. I have my sewing/pattern design workspace there, as well as anything that I do with illustration and textile design.
For my ceramics work I just, I mean just, I am still moving in, joined a local ceramic arts co-op and have an apprentice space there. I'm still getting it set up, but I'm excited to be in an environment to learn from other artists on a regular basis.
5. Are you going to design fabric again?
I am so, so happy to say YES, I am designing more fabric and have already turned in my next collection. I'm working on more artwork this week for 2019, I can't say much more specifically about it, but I am taking everything I have learned these last five years into this new collaboration and it feels so good. This is a great next step for me (and my friends), and I am really looking forward to sharing more about it very soon.
[Note: Moonrise, featured above, is Alexia's last fabric line with Cotton and Steel. We are so happy to hear she will be designing with a new fabric company, can't wait to hear the news, and wish her and all of the women pictured success in their new endeavors!]
6. What do you wish you could have told your creative self 5, 10, or 15 years ago?
Oh boy, where to begin?! I think if there's one big talk I could have with my younger self, I would sit younger Alexia down and say "Trust your instincts, be calm and listen to your heart." I think over the years as a working creative I have made sacrifices because an opportunity presented itself. Instead of forging a path I initiate from an honest and committed place, I think I have sometimes been steered off course by opportunity. The importance of both staying focused, and allowing yourself the time for that gut check moment are very real to me now and I am trying very hard to keep them in mind in my daily life.
8. What is your favorite part of the creative process.
The creative process is so fascinating and it's something I really want to write and talk more about. In my process I can see distinct phases, and there is something positive to say about all of them. But, if I had to pick a favorite part I'd say its the flow. I think athletes talk a lot about the flow, and to me it is a similarly physical experience when it happens in creative life. When I'm days into my process, I'm creatively limber, I've been keeping up with my practice, and I hit a creative stride, my body feels warm and everything falls into place, it's as if I am doing the most soulfully aligned thing I could do in that moment, and it feels like it could go on forever, in the best way. The flow always ends, as it must, as the cycle moves forward towards its inevitable beginning again, but it is the most magical thing to experience.
What is your favorite color and number?
Green and five. I recently read an article about how a study showed that a disproportionate number of people choose blue and 7 and now I want to know everyone's favorite color and number. What's yours, Katie??? [Mine is 3 and teal blue. ~katie]