Alex Marshall Studios creates stunning ceramics for babies and children. Each piece is handmade in northern California from white earthenware clay. Often described as 'beautifully functional sculpture', Alex Marshall's work appears organic — an elegant mixture of art and chance.
At Gigi Brooks we're huge fans of the plates, bowls, mugs, lamps, coin banks and picture frames in this exquisite collection. We caught up with Andrew Barry, one half of the husband and wife team behind the brand, to find out more...
How did Alex Marshall Studios come about?
'In 2002, Alex was selling her handmade dinnerware through her studio and a small select group of stores while I was a project manager in software development. Every day after work, I would help her and then one day in the summer of 2003, we both realised something needed to change. I very quickly quit my job and we signed up for the San Francisco gift fair and New York gift fair.
We had very little knowledge of the wholesale world, but we knew if we didn't try this now, we'd never try it. 12 years later, we're still trying to figure it out but we're still here and still putting out new designs!'
What inspires your work?
'Everything inspires our work and, with the advent of smartphones, it's become much easier to capture any inspiration. We photograph everything we like, regardless of how insignificant it may seem. We rip pages out of magazines because you never know when that inspiration will lead to a new design.
We keep every doodle we make, even if it's on a napkin drawn hastily in 30 seconds because you never know. We also listen to our clients since they're listening to their clients. Inspiration can happen anywhere at any time, it's up to us to grab that inspiration and put it to use.'
Tell us about the design process. How do you get from initial idea to finished product?
'Our design process is pretty scattered and haphazard. We're old school so everything is done on a drawing and then made physically either in clay, plaster, wood or styrofoam. Very rarely does the initial physical version become the production version.
It's usually an iterative process that can last anywhere from a couple of months to a few years. We've even gone back to old never launched designs from years ago, re-worked them and then launched them. It's not a linear process at all.'
What do you love most about designing for babies and children?
'The challenge of designing something a child will like, understand, grasp, relate to while simultaneously designing for the discerning parent seeking pieces that are mature, artistic and design worthy. Merging those 2 disparate sensibilities is both the best and most challenging part of designing for babies and kids.'
What's special about an Alex Marshall design?
'Alex works on every single piece we make. She no longer does everything, but she'll do the drawing or the underglazing and she'll sign every piece. Every single piece we make passes through Alex's hands. We feel what sets our designs apart is the combination of capturing a child's imagination and a parent's sense of good design.
As a parent myself, I want my child exposed to good design and to see how it can make your life a happier place. We're hopeful that Alex Marshall Studios accomplishes that.'
How do you like to unwind and relax at the end of the day?
'Swim, take the dog for a walk in our olive orchard, spend time with our 7 year old daughter, even just sit outside by the pool with a cocktail to talk about our day.'
Tell us about three things that bring you happiness on a daily basis.
'Knowing that I get to work with my wife every day and help bring her amazing designs to the public makes me feel grateful every day. Second to that is watching our daughter grow up and knowing that because of what we're lucky enough to do for a living, I get to spend at least some part of every day with her. I didn't have that in my childhood.'
If you weren't a designer, what would you do?
'I have a background in computer science so if I weren't doing this, I'd probably be a project manager for some large corporation. I did that for 8 years before joining Alex and 12 years later, I'd rather not have to think about going back.'
Discover Alex Marshall Studios at Gigi Brooks here and be sure to get in touch if you require any assistance or advice.
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