Infinity Vessel NYFW Project4

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Crafting collaborations & connections: Graduate Alexandra Holmes melds cultures and crafts with glass art

Alexandra studied BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts (now BA (Hons) Crafts & Material Practices) at Arts University Plymouth, graduating with a First Class Honours in 2021. We caught up with her to find out about her journey into the world of collaborative glass art.
<p dir="ltr"><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Alexandra Phoenix Holmes</a> is a jewellery designer, creator and multimedia artist who experiments with hot glass, both blowing and casting. Currently based in Helsinki, Finland and originally from Stroud, she creates conceptual pieces as a means to challenge viewers to question power structures and gender roles.</p> <p dir="ltr">Alexandra studied BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts (now <a href="">BA (Hons) Crafts &amp; Material Practices</a>) at Arts University Plymouth, graduating with a First Class Honours in 2021. We caught up with her to find out about her journey into the world of collaborative glass art.<strong><br /></strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Your collaboration with Sini Majuri sounded incredible. Could you elaborate on how this partnership came to be and what it has taught you about the collaborative process in art?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I found Sini on the Homo Faber website and saw her dynamic photos with her creative partner Marja Hepo-Aho, where they wore warrior-like outfits and fought with glass swords. I contacted Sini proposing a collaboration and she replied that she had lots of exciting projects planned in 2023 and would love to work together on them. I was successful in an application to Arts Council England for their Developing Your Contemporary Practice which funded my travels to Finland to work with Sini for six months.<br /></p>
Infinity Vessel NYFW Project

Infinity Vessel at New York Fashion Week

<p>In Finland, I became part of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Infinity Vessel</a>, a group made of glass artists, textile artists, tufters and leather specialists. There were so many opportunities for cross disciplinary work throughout my stay. Everybody was so different in their own way, so even though there were many of us working in the same medium, creating similar work, we all approached these large scale projects in different ways.<br /><br />Working with similarly creative but diverse people brings great strengths. In Finland, culturally there’s the understanding that everyone in an organisation is equally respected and heard no matter their level of experience.</p>
Infinity Vessel NYFW Project

Infinity Vessel at New York Fashion Week

<p dir="ltr"><strong>The projects you are involved in are quite diverse, from fashion week collections to working with Ballet Finland. How do you adapt your artistic approach to suit such varied contexts?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I’ve been very lucky to have worked on a diverse range of projects since graduating, from modern jewellery design at MAM Originals in Barcelona to traditional glassblowing in Wave Murano.<br /><br />All my projects have been centred around glass or wearable objects. These are two subjects that interest me as an approach to glass. It’s a very adaptable material and can be moulded into any desired shape, but it’s fragile and considerably heavy which can pose issues for wearable purposes. This is what interests me about how glass can be adapted into a suitable material to be worn. My work at MAM inspired me with new innovative ways to consider how shapes fit on the body by starting from conceptual themes unrelated to the human form and considering how these shapes can fit successfully and attractively onto the body.</p> <p dir="ltr">When working on a brief I try to ensure that I’m staying close to the message while developing it in the most interesting way possible. It’s important to understand the context of a project, including the audience, goal, cultural significance and context, and bear this in mind throughout the production and execution.<br /></p>
Sini and Joonas in Helsinki

Sini, Joonas and Alexandra in Helsinki

<p>While I’ve worked with a variety of mediums, the message I’ve wanted to convey with my work has been consistent. For example, the New York Fashion Week project with Infinity Vessel was mainly designed to comment on the image of women in modern society by presenting eight alternative archetypes in wearable sculptures. There were also sub-objectives to consider too, such as being conscious of trying to stay environmentally sustainable as possible by only collaborating with local sustainable companies. We also 3D printed with wood composite materials instead of plastic. We aimed to bring more unusual traditional crafting methods to the foreground and highlight them on a stage where they might not usually get that recognition. Those goals made us stand out at New York Fashion Week as our pieces were unique and promoted conversation surrounding sustainability and fast fashion. </p> <p dir="ltr">It’s also important to stay flexible. You always have more to learn no matter what stage you’re at in your career, and it allows us to be ready for more diverse projects, while making us more interesting and capable makers. This can also be said for embracing new technologies and techniques and experimenting with unconventional materials, it all allows you to push the boundaries and open up to new opportunities in the future.<br /></p>
Infinity Vessel NYFW Project6

Infinity Vessel at New York Fashion Week

<p dir="ltr"><strong>What project do you think helped significantly advance your skills and how?</strong><br /><br />Working in Wave Murano in April 2022 was an intensive month where I experienced working in a large scale glass studio with a group of professionals. It was so fun to work with those guys because they loved to sing and dance constantly while working but they also worked hard for long hours of intense, physically demanding work.</p> <p dir="ltr">I learnt so much from this short period and was lucky to be able to work with another Arts University Plymouth alumni, Benjamin Lintell, as my tutor. I learnt a lot about how a modern glassblowing factory functions, including the team’s range of completely separate specialised jobs. I also found out how they work with clients and artists wanting to create work using their equipment, and how important it is to collaborate with other factories and businesses and take part in the community.<br /></p>
Team at Wave

Alexandra and the team at Wave Murano

<p dir="ltr"><strong>How have your experiences at Arts University Plymouth influenced your artistic direction and choice of projects?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The course is very diverse so this opened up a lot of opportunities with many facets of crafts to explore. I loved the opportunities that were open to me at Arts University Plymouth, we had so much access and freedom in the workshops. The generous amount of time we were allowed with the equipment gave me the chance to experiment and explore the materials in my own time. This set the course apart from others I was considering at the time.</p> <p dir="ltr">The tutors all work as independent artists in their own fields which adds to the great skills and experience they bring to classes. They identified our strengths as individual creatives and helped direct us to pathways that would suit us well.<br /></p>
Assisting Fabio Fantinato in Wave Murano

Alexandra assisting Fabio Fantinato in Wave Murano

<p dir="ltr"><strong>What advice would you give to recent graduates aspiring to create a career in the arts sector?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">It’s important to get as much experience as possible, take all the opportunities that come your way and try to test as many different projects and environments as possible. There’s so many directions and ways of working that you can choose from and it’s important to find one that works best for you.</p> <p dir="ltr">It’s good to stay informed, keep an eye on places that advertise opportunities for people starting their careers to see what is available and to understand what options there are to choose from. It helps to be aware of studios or artists that you are interested in and who make work that resonate with you. Networking is very important, attending events, exhibitions, conferences and talking to people about their work and the ideas behind it can lead to new opportunities and collaborations that you hadn’t anticipated.<br /></p>
Collection of blobby ladies Photo by Chelsea Hopkins AUP Alumni 1

Alexandra's collection of blobby ladies. Photo by Chelsea Hopkins, Arts University Plymouth alumni.

<p dir="ltr">Stay open minded and flexible. You have to be prepared when applying to different opportunities, there’s always the possibility of rejection. Setbacks are inevitable but they can be used as a learning opportunity and every time you write an application, you’re getting better at it! </p> <p dir="ltr">It’s also good to think about what can ensure a steady reliable form of income around your bigger, more ambitious projects. For example, I work as a freelance production assistant for an online learning platform, which means I can take tasks and jobs from this company when there isn’t much happening otherwise. Another way to generate income is to think of a product that is small and easy for you to produce and sell them online. <br /></p>
Making a blobby lady in Romania

Alexandra making a blobby lady in Romania

<p dir="ltr"><strong>Looking ahead, how do you envision your artistic practice evolving, and are there any new techniques or mediums you're eager to explore?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I would personally like to be able to build on my glassblowing skills, finding a way to work in a studio and practice and learn from others. I still have a lot to learn and it’s necessary to dedicate a lot of time into developing skills and understanding the materials. I would love to learn new techniques and travel more as it’s great to learn from a variety of people.</p> <p dir="ltr">During Infinity Vessels’ New York Fashion Week project, I led the 3D modelling and printing side of things, concluding in a full 3D printed dress made of sustainable composite. I’m interested in pushing my knowledge of 3D modelling, challenging myself to learn as much as possible on software like Rhino, Maya and Sketchup. I think this is a valuable skill I can work alongside my glass work.</p> <p dir="ltr">I’m also very interested in the emergence of AI tools and how they’re affecting our traditional forms of making. I use Midjourney and ChatGPT daily to assist me with my work, increasing my productivity and helping to create instant images to visualise ideas. <br /></p>
Working in Cristina Ilinca s studio in Romania

Alexandra working in Cristina Ilinca's studio in Romania

<p dir="ltr"><strong>Finally, reflecting on your journey thus far, how has your perception of success and fulfilment in the arts changed since your time at Arts University Plymouth?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Since leaving Arts University Plymouth, I’ve started to understand that success and fulfilment are not the same for everyone. It’s important to understand yourself and figure out where you see yourself in the world in relation to the arts. Having insight into the job and role you see yourself in is crucial for making informed career decisions. Figuring out your personal goals can be achieved by talking to others, considering your own values and setting realistic targets. </p> <p dir="ltr">Everybody has a different image of what success means, whether it’s financial, receiving awards or having a comfortable life where your craft is a hobby. Everybody’s journey to achieving what they want is totally different as well so it’s important to stay true to what you want in life and consider the necessary steps to get there.</p>

<p dir="ltr"><a href="">BA (Hons) Craft &amp; Material Practices</a> at Arts University Plymouth is an ever-evolving course at the forefront of thinking and making, with an increasing emphasis on ways that people in the UK’s craft industry can live harmoniously within natural and fabricated environments that support a healthy ecosystem. Visit our next <a href="">Open Day</a> to find out more.</p>