Sunday, 22 July 2012

Favourite Shops - Little Alexander

  Isn't this shop just beautiful! I stumbled across Little Alexander on one of my 'find pretty thing on Etsy' times. They seem such lovely people too from their answers! I wish they lived closer (or I lived closer) for talks about chickens and crafting life! 

Tell us a bit about yourself.
We're a partnership of two girls, K + A, K being the artist and A (that's me) being the everything else. Everything else includes usually speaking for our partnership (voila) as well as making notebooks. We like nothing more than spending every minute of every day together, so it's been great to share a business as well as a home. We live at Headquarters, an old farmhouse on 3 acres (about 12000 square meters) out in the rural Midwest of the United States, surrounded by corn and soybean fields. K loves the four distinct seasons we get here, but I sorta miss the temperate maritime climate of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, our previous home. Probably New Zealand would be great for me.

Describe your craft
We make illustrated paper goods. K's art is really the centerpiece of our work, but we both really love paper in all its forms and love being able to translate artwork into useful things you can hold and use and carry around with you rather than just hang on your wall. As letter writers we make notecards and postcards, and as listers and doodlers we make handmade notebooks, all of which feature K's illustrations. We occasionally sell K's original artwork through our Etsy shop as well.

How did you get started with your craft?
K has been making art forever, but Little Alexander really got started when we had both grown tired of working our 'real' jobs. We were feeling like sell-outs at our respective places of employment and desperately wanted to be doing something different, something where we could be more independent, something we could do with integrity, something that used more of our bodies than just our brains, and something we could take with us anywhere. K quit her job first and started working on watercolor pieces to make into cards. I quit my job not long after to help out and we moved across the country to start a new life with Little Alexander at the center.

What is your earliest crafting memory?
I asked K about this and she got this distant and shining look on her face. She described a day in preschool when they put shaving cream out on the table, and you could flatten it out and draw in it with your finger, then smooth it out then draw in it again, and on and on. Her face then clouds over as she also remembers how much she loved drawing with pencil on the desktops at school ("they're smooth and slick but the pencil shows up so dark on them") and how her 2nd grade teacher caught her when the whole surface was covered with her drawings and made her clean them all off.

What are your favourite materials to work with/favourite mediums?
K really likes drawing with pencil on scratch paper. From there, her images sometime become stencils, sometimes get scanned onto the computer and digitally colored, or sometimes are transferred onto thicker paper and watercolored. She loves experimenting, though, so while there are some constants (pencil drawings, watercolor), there are always new things, too. Block printing, for example, is getting exciting. Expect to see some of that show up in our shop in not too long.

We also have particular papers we love. French Paper is a great company who makes amazing papers in great colors, many with 100% recycled content. We're also very into Neenah's soft thick Lettra paper at the moment, made from reclaimed cotton. But maybe our most unique paper source is the paperboard from cereal boxes and the like. Our whole community saves their boxes for us to repurpose into notebook covers and envelopes for mailing.

How did you come up with your store name?
Little Alexander is a translation of our Italian last name, Alesandrini.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
We're working on fixing up our old farmhouse and the land around it. We're working to put in more gardens and fruit trees and restore a stretch of it to tall grass prairie, the ecosystem that was here before the Midwest became cropland. I'm also a beekeeper, and K is also a knitter and a spinner and a pianist. We keep our life pretty simple, and still there never seems to be quite enough time.

Where does your inspiration come from?
K draws things she likes. Luckily she likes very many things. Getting inspired about what to draw has never been as hard for her as getting inspired to sit down and make art in the first place. It is so easy to get bogged down in everyday things and so easy to lose faith that what you're doing as an artist is worthwhile. K then sees her inspirations as the things that distract her from everyday tasks and doubts and get her excited about the world. And that kind of inspiration can come from books or conversations or fashion or almost anywhere, most often where people show off their own passions. Passion is contagious.

What does handmade mean to you?
That's a big question. We can get kind of obsessive when it comes to handmade, homemade and from scratch. For example, we make our own bread from flour, salt, oil, sugar, and yeast. Is that homemade? Is that from scratch? Yes, compared to buying bread at the store. But what about someone who makes their bread from a package mix? Or what if we grew our own wheat and ground our own flour? Does it matter if we kneaded it all by hand? Clearly there is a spectrum. We think the same is true for handmade goods.

It is important to us that our all images are original artwork by K. It is important to us that our notebooks are cut and folded and bound ourselves. It even matters to us that we do all our own image reproduction, even if we're using a printer as often as a stencil. We don't make our own paper or even all our own envelopes. But we have lovingly handled and shaped everything we sell in our shop, and we feel personally connected to each piece. That's where we sit on the handmade spectrum.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
K's mom was a quilter, and we have two of her quilts. They are so beautiful, and hopefully will last for generations.

How do you get out of your creative ruts?
This is actually where a lot of K's experimenting with new media comes in. Whenever things are getting stale, she'll put away the materials she most often works with and pick up something new. It seems to work well for her.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
Ha! Our past history suggests we have about a 3 year attention span when it comes to big life plans. Sometimes we hope that we've broken that habit and in ten years we'll still be right here making beautiful things. Sometimes we still dream of all the things one can do in a life that we haven't done yet… We're only a year and a half into our current life and for the moment, anyway, still pretty rooted in the present.

Where can you be found online? (besides on Etsy)
We keep a blog ( and are on Facebook ( K occasionally tweets (@lilAlexander) and has an illustration portfolio site (

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
We're math and science nerds. My degree was in physics and I taught high school science before we started Little Alexander. One of the exceptions to the 'K is the artist, I am the everything else' role division of our business is the accounting, which K loves doing too much to turn over to me. She'd tell you she considers all the necessary number juggling to be one of the perks of owning our own business.

What did you like to do when you aren't crafting?

We love food, so many of our pleasures are related to that. We garden and keep chickens, which means great fresh produce and eggs, and we love to cook almost as much as we love to eat. We also love to be outside in beautiful places. That could be backpacking in the mountains or wandering through big city streets or just laying around under our trees.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Even though I've been following the Little Alexander blog, I learned something new. Love the "Where are you going to be in 10 years" question :)