An Interview with: Alexa Allen
Hello! This is the first in what I hope becomes a more regular occurrence on my site- an interview with a good friend and interesting "neighbor" here in the Boulder/ Denver area. Leather artist Alexa Allen agreed to be my guinea pig for this first installment and I am incredibly grateful for her letting me record our conversation in her studio ahead of several markets and shows that she will be participating in. If any reader has any tips on how to create a decent recording so that you can listen to future interviews podcast-style, I'd appreciate the feedback!
So, lets get into it..... Have you been making things with your hands your whole life?
A long time. I went to art school for furniture in San Francisco and after that was in the Bay area for 8-9 years doing high end custom cabinetry. So when I moved to Colorado it was 2009 and the market had tanked and there were no jobs and no one was re-doing kitchens. So, I was like, Ok, I’ll try something smaller.
When did you start working with leather?
I started doing leather probably a couple of years after I moved here. I started working with a very talented local maker who was very generous with her time and knowledge! She hired me basically because I told her I loved her work and I wanted to learn about leather. That was a great education and a few years later I got an amazing opportunity to do some leather work for Todd Reed. He was interested in starting a line of menswear, and I was on board to do the leatherwork. It was a big deal to me, and it meant that people would start to take me seriously as a leather craftswoman. That break gave me the courage to break out on my own and start my own brand. And over the past 2 years I have gained momentum in my own brand and have been enjoying that process and the ride it takes me on!
Did you start with the bowls or the bags?
I started with the bags. Then with the bowls I was trying to go back to something like the woodworking. I can form leather or bend leather, like bending wood. So I started with the basic shapes. I can’t remember why the drawing on the leather started, part of it was like art therapy. Like, I’m too stressed out, I’m going to just sit here and draw for a while. It was doodling and I didn’t take it seriously, but then I started liking how it looked with the leather and the ink. I’d like to make bigger pieces and some stitched together in different forms and vessels. I just….. need more time!
What inspires you about leather, what do you like about it?
The thing I like about it is that it can be so versatile. It can be a soft, squishy bag, it can be a really hard structured thing. Currently, I like to challenge myself to apply more furniture concepts to it. Doing small vessel-y things. I did these big kind of drawers for a custom cabinet and I was like "Oh, why can’t I take the leather aspect and make more furniture inspired things?" That’s why the timing of this project is really interesting.
So tell me about this chair exhibition you are working on for a show at the Boulder Public Library?
Steve Bullock, who owns Neon Space Lab in Longmont, asked a bunch of local architects and product designers to make a single chair out of a piece of plywood that can be milled by the shop bot at the Makers space at the Boulder Public Library. Those are the only parameters, you can add to it but it can’t be so exotic that you couldn’t make it yourself if you had the plans. The premise is that you could get the plans, get some space in the studio and make this bench, if you wanted. I haven’t had the chance to make any furniture in a long time, I don’t have the tools, I didn’t have the resources or the space. So to get back to furniture and to be able to incorporate the leather into the wood but from a different perspective is something that I’m excited about.
OK, so a few rapid fire questions to end the interview!
Favorite Food: Kimchi
Favorite Apps: PicLab, Bloom(for my kids) Shazam because I NEVER know the name of the song!
Favorite Podcast: Heroine
Favorite Swear Word! FUCK
What advice would you give your 20 year old self? Ask for advice, and listen!
Alexa! Thank you so much for letting me sit down with you for our interview. As more information about the Boulder Chair exhibit is released I'll be sure to add it to the calendar and let everyone know!
Check out Alexas work in person at the following upcoming makers events.
For more information and to see more work, check out https://www.alexaallenis.com