When & where did you first learn your craft?
I attended California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco and have a degree in furniture design. I worked in the Bay area for 8-9 years doing high-end custom cabinetry. When I moved to back to Boulder in 2009 (I am originally from here) the local market had tanked and there were no jobs and no one was building. (hard to believe now!) I started doing leatherwork a couple years after I moved back to Boulder. I worked with a very talented local maker who was very generous with her time and knowledge. That was a great education and a few years later I got an amazing opportunity to do the leatherwork for another local company. 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 the creative process and the ride it takes me on!
Who (or what) has been your biggest influence?
My two girls. I’ve always held “non-tradition” jobs and have taken pride in that. Showing my girls that they don’t have to fit into specific gender roles is a big deal to me.
What have you learned through creating that has surprised you?
I’ve learned a lot about myself through the creative process. There was a period in my life where I wasn’t creating, and looking back on that now, I can say I was miserable. Giving myself time and space to be alone and being creative is restorative and imperative for maintaining my sanity!
What piece of work best represents you and why?
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a furniture show “Chair of the Board” curated by Steve Bullock (who owns Neon space lab in Longmont) Boulder Library. I made a plywood bench which incorporated a leather bolster into the design. I really enjoyed combining furniture and leatherwork, it felt like a really natural process, and it brought me back to my roots in furniture making, but adding a new skill this time around.
Describe your work routine for your making practice (i.e. morning person / night person; how many hours at a stretch, organized or spontaneous, warm-ups – you get the idea).
I find I work best in 2 or three-hour spurts. I’ll get intensely focused and try to work through a design so that it is at a point where I can actually start making it. I generally am a three dimensional person- I try to sketch out ideas in a notebook, but usually I skip ahead to mocking things up. I am impatient and tend to dive into the making process; it is rare that I have a design all the way thought out before I begin! This leads to a lot of prototypes, but also a lot of experimental details that I wouldn’t have normally been able to formulate with just a drawing.
Tell us about any recent collaborations, why they worked (or didn’t).
I love collaborations. Mostly because I find it fascinating to see how other creatives tackle similar projects. I have worked on a few architectural collaborations recently that were great experiences. These projects gave me a chance to work outside of my normal “comfort zone” and to stretch my thinking. And the projects gave me a chance to incorporate leather into a space that I normally wouldn’t have access to.
What are you listening to these days?
This week I have been listening to KUTX, an independent radio station in Austin TX.
What are you reading right now?
How to Get Sh*t Done by Erin Falconer.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your creative career?
“Just make it and see if it works” I tend to overthink things, which I’ve come to understand is really just another version of procrastination. I’ve noticed the artists/makers around me that are constantly producing work are the most successful. Not everything works all the time, but its a good way to work through problems or blocks that occur.
If you make part-time, what are some other things you do to supplement your income?
This is my full-time gig, so it’s all about hustling for the next project!
What is the key thing that you did right in being able to sell your work?
I don’t have any magical insight on this one- but one thing I’ve noticed is that people love to feel connected to the maker and the art. The more open and engaging I am with my customers the more successful I am. And, for me that brings about a really unique sense of honesty and connection.
You can find Alexa Allens work @ www.alexaallenis.com