When you consider the range of projects designer Alyson Fox has carried off, you might wonder if there’s anything she can’t do: prints, illustration, jewelry, clothing, textiles, not to mention a book of portraits. While Fox has degrees in photography and sculpture, she says she never really had a preconceived idea “of what I wanted to do or what it would look like.”
After getting her MFA at the University of Colorado, Fox went to work on visuals for Anthropologie before deciding to focus on her own practice, in particular her drawings. Her “fictional family album” — faceless figures at once familiar and unsettling — eventually caught the attention of Design Sponge. More accolades followed, along with commissions, and Fox has since collaborated on various editions with West Elm, H&M, Of A Kind, Ink Dish, and Hawkins New York (whose rugs with Fox we featured a few weeks back). She’s also been selling (and selling out of) limited runs of her statement-making yet easily wearable necklaces, under the label A Small Collection. This May, she’s aiming to expand that with a line of clothing, jewelry, and housewares made in partnership with artisans around the world.
Fox might modestly credit her success to “being on the right blog at the right time,” but her eye for line, color, and pattern has a whole lot to do with it — as does her curiosity and desire to experiment with different media and materials. “I think of it all as the same project, as one big piece it’s hard for me to break apart. Even though it may be a rug, it started as a drawing, and even though it’s a clothing line, I’m thinking about the way I want to photograph it even while I’m sketching. No matter what it is, I attack it in the same way.” Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that Fox designed and built her own home. With the help of family in the trade, she and her husband spent a year constructing it from scratch and in late 2012, they moved a half hour’s drive west of Austin to Spicewood, Texas. Not only does Fox now have spectacular hill country views, but after years of working at a little desk, she has her own studio where she can dream up what’s next.
If we had to sum up our favorite kind of designer in a just a few brief sentences, it might read something like Alyson Fox’s biography: “I like making things from paper, found objects, thread, furniture, and plaster. I like designing things for commercial ends and designing things for no end at all. I have a degree in photography and an MFA where I focused on many mediums. I am inspired by hardware stores, building sites, empty rooms, people’s messes, stories, fabric, and quiet days.” But while we had some inkling of the Austin designer’s multidisciplinary chops — from girly-tough jewelry to patterned editions for the likes of West Elm — we weren’t aware of her artier inclinations until only recently. Those include a fantastic photo series documenting the textiles people use to cover up outdoor plant life when the weather gets cold, as well as our most recent discovery: a series of 1.5x1.5-inch plaster cubes, each one embedded with bits Fox and her husband found on the 5-acre plot where they last year built a house from scratch.
Many artists claim to need restriction in order to thrive — Matthew Barney famously made a series around the subject — and find the idea of freedom paralyzing, like standing at the edge of a vast creative abyss. Vancouver native Monika Wyndham, on the other hand, seems to be energized by endless possibility. In February, she left a full-time position art-directing interiors for the Canadian clothing chain Aritzia to move to Brooklyn and freelance, and she's taken to the professional vacuum with a kind of giddy abandon, flitting among dozens of ideas she finally has time to follow through on — even if she's unsure as to what end. And then there's the high she gets from losing herself in one of her biggest sources of artistic fodder: Google Images. "It’s just baffling to me how much information exists on the internet, and the fact that you can enter funny combinations of words and yield the most insane multitude of search results," she muses.
Caitlin Mociun may have been the author of a cult-hit fashion line for only a few years, but the lessons she learned from that stint — about the way she wants a customer to feel, or about the way a body moves in space — inform nearly everything she does today. That first becomes clear when she talks about her massively successful fine jewelry line, which she launched almost as a palliative to her days as a clothing designer. “I never really liked doing my clothing line, and when I switched to jewelry it was such a different response,” Mociun told me earlier this fall when I visited her year-old Williamsburg boutique. “It seemed to make people feel good about themselves as opposed to clothing, which often makes people feel bad.” But it’s when she talks about her boutique that you realize that nothing in the shop could be the way it is if Mociun weren’t first a designer.