Having grown up in a 15th century home surrounded by art and antiques, London-based artist and designer Alexandra Robinson developed a keen interest and eye for art, design and quality from a young age. Alexandra went on to finesse her drawing skills in Florence, receiving rigours training at the renowned Charles H. Cecil Studios. Upon returning to London, she spent time working at the British Fashion Council, before moving on to Christie's for 10 years expanding her knowledge of art and interior. She particularly finds inspiration from the 20th Century Art and Modern Design era that is still prevalent in today’s interiors, echoed in the clean, sculptural quality of her lighting pieces.
Having grown up in a 15th century home surrounded by art and antiques, London-based artist and designer Alexandra Robinson developed a keen interest and eye for art, design and quality from a young age. Alexandra went on to finesse her drawing skills in Florence, receiving rigorous training at the renowned Charles H. Cecil Studios. Upon returning to London, she spent time working at the British Fashion Council, before moving on to Christie's for 10 years expanding her knowledge of art and interior. She particularly finds inspiration from the 20th Century Art and Modern Design era that is still prevalent in today’s interiors, echoed in the clean, sculptural quality of her lighting pieces.
Alexandra designs functional art. She begins by making a paper model which she places in her home, to establish the scale and size of the piece. Alexandra then works with local British craftsmen who share her desire for good quality well-made pieces to create a mould of her design, from which a resin form is made and layers of white plaster slicked to its surface with a palette knife to create texture and interest. Alexandra has an expansive knowledge of art and interiors and her lighting collection, developed exclusively for The New Craftsmen, sits well within all types of interior schemes, thanks to the textured, yet modern, white plaster aesthetic.
1. What motivates you to make?
The motivation to make, design, mould, paint, is really more a need to create and is probably something I don’t have much control over. If pieces are successful and desired by others then of course that can spur me on to create more, but the initial desire to make is fairly innate. Sometimes though, the motivation might come out of necessity. If I am looking for a certain piece of furniture for example, it might be easier to design it myself!
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
Inspiration comes in all forms and of course we all see so much imagery, so really everything is derivative. It could be art, textiles or fashion, but usually it is some tiny kernel of an idea that might stick. It could be the way light hits a linen tablecloth, the curve of a ceramic jug or the twist of bark that might inspire. Once an initial idea is drawn out, there are a couple of people whose opinion I really value, so I will usually check in with them. Should that arm be a little longer, what about that angle, is there something that could be done in another finish?
Often my inspiration comes from a feeling of place, rather than a shape, texture, or work of art. My plaster pieces remind me of old Greek houses or Spanish fincas, with their whitewashed, uneven walls. These spaces feel contemporary and ancient at the same time – something they share with the dense, hand-crafted look of my plaster cones.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I think the combination of good design, function and beauty can bring joy to our daily lives. For me, it is really important to strike the right balance between practicality and luxury. Sheet metal might be the most practical material to use for a particular piece, but how will it feel in your hand? I suppose over time you learn to anticipate what feels right; the silky sheen on a glazed piece of pottery, the weight of solid bronze, the dry powdery paint finish on a lampshade.
My pieces are all made very differently. Some are hand-moulded in clay by me, and then cast at a foundry. Others are designed by me, made up in paper, and then sent to a workshop for prototyping, and quite often pieces are sent to a workshop and made from simply a few sketches. I would describe myself as a designer before a maker, as I definitely do rely on other craftspeople to help realise a product. I constantly seek advice on how to achieve certain shapes or finishes. Pieces are tweaked and perfected, but the overall look usually remains true to the first drawings.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I am really proud of showing at The New Craftsmen. It is the first partnership I made and I feel that the pieces are very at home in their collection. I feel very lucky to be part of something that takes me out of my studio and into ‘the real world’ with other designers, makers, and The New Craftsmen’s team with all their support and interest in what I am doing.
I have made pieces for some highly revered designers over the years, which doesn’t necessarily make me proud, but it gives me confidence that I am on the right track. When you work alone, you never really know if you’re on to a good thing.
My proudest moments however, are when my children see a little design, sometimes first on the back of an envelope, being turned into a real object and then shown in a gallery. That arch from the first concept, to selling a product, is something that I hope will be instilled in their young minds. If you can imagine it, you can do it!
5. What is your dream project?
I am currently working with a brilliant woodworker to make larger pieces of furniture which will be finished with plaster to complement the Wobble lighting range, offered through The New Craftsmen. My dream project, which I haven’t yet embarked on, is to create one of a kind artist illustrated cabinets for The New Craftsmen. Currently in idea mode and not yet realised. One day!
To find out more about commissioning Alexandra Robinson for a bespoke piece or to be kept informed about new collections from this particular maker, please email [email protected]
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