Burke Residency 29: Chelsea Alexander of Sqwigl Studio•
Posted on November 07 2023
CHELSEA: My name is Chelsea Alexander and to give some context that I think is helpful is I graduated from RISD with my BFA in graphic design. I did this to explore my own creative voice and figure out what it is I want to do in life and going to school really molded me and my vision. Three years out of school, I created my studio because I saw a gap in the market where art and storytelling could blossom in unique ways.
C: I’d say it’s a balance! There’s certain materials that are easier to manufacture and play with like prints and even soap moulds, and there’s others that are way more challenging to duplicate so they are one-of-a-kind like our yarn pieces (rugs), paper mache pieces, and paintings. Something I am going to school for now actually is textiles in London! So i’m exploring more ways of constructing stories! I hope to make fabric, and more sculpture pieces for pattern exploration!
C: This is a great question, I’m super sensitive to color and I think I never acted on this sensitivity until I started Sqwigl. As a “traditionally trained” designer I love minimalism in the sense that it’s easier for people to digest but it needs context. Versus with Sqwigl I have the tools to explore my emotions through visual storytelling utilizing different materials! What I love most is pulling bright colors from different countries/places I visit and developing that story of who this place is and why I want people to notice it, and what they can learn from it like their language, their food, their vibe overall. I take stock of my mood as well while I am there by collecting color from that space. So my rugs, my paper mache sculptures are all always based on new places I experience and want people to learn more about through visual storytelling.
C: I think identity is so important to acknowledge as an artist. It fuels all the work you make no matter what it is. There are two artists that I LOVE and I am always inspired by their drive/determination/work (both happen to be British). One is Lakwena, a traditional painter based in London. She explores her identity through type and color through painting large statement pieces that bring people together. They are almost textile like but demand action by using words. Another artist I love is Yinka Ilori who is a bit of a textile artist and designer from Nigeria actually but grew up in London as an immigrant. I think I resonate strongly with his identity because he has taken his childhood stories and made them into spaces where people can learn more from immigrants and admire them for what they bring to the country they live in. He utilizes a lot of color, sometimes he paints basketball courts and other times he designs a set of pieces for a museum.
E: You list "caring, curious, and collaborative" as tenets of who Sqwigl is. Can you share how those traits come through in your process when designing a new product?
C: I think those are our pillars because they are so introspective. They speak to how I work personally. I’m always curious about everything I see, everything I eat, everything I design. I make work that is meant to show people I care and I want things to be good. As for collaboration, I can’t do anything by myself, ever. I always need other people and I recognize that everyday.
E: You've collaborated with other independent brands and designers on some of your products, like your Scented Soap, do you have any dream collaborations you'd love to make happen?
C: As for ideal collaborations - there’s so many! I’d have to say these three are the dream: Nike, Paloma Wool, and TFL (Transit for London).
E: Do you have a soundtrack that you play as you make your art?
C: Oh this is a great question! I actually tend to look on instagram for trending music, but I love listening to 90’s rap, and I love listening to radios of artists on Spotify while I work. Some I have been jamming out to lately are Third Eye Blind, SZA, Kendrick Lamar and so much more.