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November 11, 2019 —

Meet The Maker: Alessandra Chambers of Aeand

Independent design studio Aeand create homewares and art prints featuring hand-rendered, print-based designs, using natural materials and bold abstract shapes. We talk to Alessandra, the brains behind the business.
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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Where do find creative inspiration for your artwork and designs? 

My work is a sort of visual diary of all the things I enjoy absorbing – most prominently travel, sculpture, textiles, fashion, historical art and architecture.

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Are there themes that run through your work? 

I’m very passionate about only using hand-rendered techniques in my work, so none of my process is digital. Texture and tactility is something that I am personally drawn to, so this is something I hope to reflect in my work. For me with print, less is more, so I tend to use limited colour, or a natural palette. 

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How did you first discover your love for what you do?

I’ve always studied creative subjects throughout my education – textiles, art, graphic design… and have loved to make things from a young age. At university I studied illustration, but quickly realised I wasn’t interested in literal or narrative illustrations and had a passion for print, though at that point I didn’t know print design was ‘a thing’. An old friend of mine who studied at the same university was studying printed textiles, and it was through her that I learnt this could be a path to explore. So after experimenting with working as an illustrator after university, and not loving it, I decided to explore textiles and printed textiles through various internships.

Do you have a typical working day?

There is no typical working day for me, which is why I love this work. I could be taking a piece to the framers, printing a new batch of paper or fabric, cutting fabric, dyeing fabric, developing new hand-drawn original pieces, visiting a museum, hosting a workshop, website maintenance, photographing new pieces, responding to emails, wrapping orders and going to the post office. I tend to make a list of all the things I would like to do, and then respond to the needs of what is a priority that day. 

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What inspired the idea of setting up your business? 

I was living in Berlin and struggling to find work as a textile designer. I knew what I wanted to make and how, so I decided I would give it a go myself. I still work part-time, and my part-time work inspires my own creative practice.

Do you have an ethos behind your work?

I consciously try to play with the line between art as a product, and product as a piece of art, and my work explores and celebrates the imperfections of handmade processes.

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What is your work process?

I always use natural materials – linen, organic cotton, recycled cotton rag paper, water-based inks, earth pigments, etc. For print I use a lot of paper cut-outs, and am experimenting more with my screen printing process to not expose my screens, and print using paper stencils instead. The practicalities of my process mean that there is always the possibility of error, which I embrace. And I always print on a fabric printing table, even when printing on paper, which can create more texture and irregularities in the work. 

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What kind of space do you work in?

I haven’t yet found a place I would like to settle, so it’s important to me that my working space can be modular and flexible wherever I go. This is why printing without having to expose a screen is great because it removes half of the equipment needed, and all I really need are my silk screens, squeegees, inks, materials and a flat surface. Natural light and a tidy, calm space is the ideal type of environment for me, though I do love the very functional/industrial atmosphere of a printing room. I have very recently moved onto the seafront in Hove, so am working from home in a very bright, open space. It looks out onto the sea, which is really inspiring and meditative.

Has your work evolved over time?

When I first started Aeand, I had intended to create repeat textile prints with the plan to sell these at fashion and interiors fairs. Eventually, I was a bit turned off by this idea, as I felt like it was giving away my identity to somebody else for no credit or acknowledgement. I had experimented with having my work as digitally printed fabric samples and quickly decided this wasn’t for me, so I screen printed all of my fabric samples.

I decided I wanted to only print black onto organic white cotton, as I felt this really simplified my designs and accentuated the mark making, without any distraction of colour. I’ve since introduced more colour into my work – though this is something I still flit between loving and hating.

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How do you balance producing handmade works, with the online world?

I think because I don’t use any digital processes in creating my pieces, I actually quite enjoy the online process of sharing my work, and like building, editing and developing my website. I enjoy photographing my work too, and these things are something I’m definitely still trying to nail. 

Is the online community important to your work?

It’s massively important for me, and the majority of my business comes through this – which I have a bit of a love hate relationship with. This is why I find it important to also participate in physical events like trade shows, fairs and pop-ups. As much as the online world is an amazing way to discover new work, I do believe it will never replace the feeling of falling in love with an object in a physical, ‘real-time’ experience. 

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Do you enjoy working as an independent maker?

I like that you can go at your own pace – though this can sometimes be a challenge when you are having foggy or tired days. I like that your days can be whatever you want them to be. To be honest there are many joys.

Personally, I would say the biggest challenge is questioning yourself on whether or not you are doing enough and making the right decisions, as there is no set way to do anything – no right or wrong for everybody. But that said, I enjoy learning from mistakes, and believe you have to get it wrong to get it right sometimes!

Which pieces do you most enjoy making?

Tough question – I love it all really. It’s probably easier to say which I least enjoy – and that is to sew zips onto samples. Though I could maybe make this easier for myself if I purchased a zipper foot for my sewing machine!

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How do you approach marketing and PR?

I don’t really have a pre-considered approach as such, so any PR has been very organic for me, which I’m very thankful for. I do all of my own social, website and emailers just by reflection on what I enjoy to look at or receive myself as a consumer.

I am trying to focus more on story-telling with my audience, whether that’s about the inspiration behind my work, the materials I’m using, or how something is made, and have recently started to share this on my journal over on my website. 

What have been your business highlights, so far?

There have been many! Any time someone purchases something, for me, is a highlight because it is a positive affirmation of my work. Certain collaborations such as my work with Heals and magazine features like those with Elle Decoration or House & Garden are highlights, too. 

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Where do you show and sell your work?

I sell my work through my website, through a selection of independent retailers and occasional pop-ups. I also exhibit new collections at design fairs. 

What’s up next for you?

I took a back seat on Design Week this year, which was great as it has really lit my fire for next year. The next 6-12 months for me will be about actualising my work in more three-dimensional homeware products, and hopefully some more collaborations. 

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Do you have creative pastimes or hobbies? 

I purchased two big slabs of clay maybe two years ago, and have very, very slowly been making things which I finally fired and glazed recently. I really enjoy working with clay so I think I’d like to explore this more. In my free time I love walking, swimming and exercising. travelling, cooking and eating! 

Any advice for new makers just starting out?

Don’t compare yourself to others, try and avoid becoming obsessed with Instagram – make your work primarily for you and because it makes you feel good.

‘Quick-Fire’ questions:

Describe your work in three words?

Print, natural, abstract

What are your making rituals? 

Tidying up first, burning a candle or incense, having a snack, listening to music.

Tea or coffee? 

Tea

Mountains or sea? 

Very tough…I have spent a lot of time in both… I can’t answer!

Night owl or early bird? 

Neither.

I wish someone had told me…

That your teens are a breeze and your 20s are actually the toughest.

See more from Alessandra via the Aeand website and on Instagram.

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