say hi to_ Alex Proba
From graphic design to the design of murals, carpets, vases and furniture - Alex Proba is multidisciplinary designer who can literally do it all. She has a defining eye for colour use that is charmingly delightful and the stunning avant-garde patterns Alex creates feel new and yet somehow familiar. She is a woman with a real 'can-do' spirit, coming from a background of working two jobs at the same time, to help realise her dream to create beautiful objects.
Alex was born in Lüdenscheid, Germany where she studied graphic and spatial design at the Akademie Mode und Design in Hamburg. She continued her studies studying product and furniture design in Eindhoven, The Netherlands and took a chance and moved to New York where she started her design studio called Studio Proba.
The influence of her studies in graphic design in her work are evident; the exquisite way she uses shapes and proportions to create her prints and objects is alluring and well thought out. By breaking down and remerging a number of objects and art movements she creates a style that is her truly authentic and contemporary.
What I love most about the work of Alex is her use of soft pastel colours juxtaposed against bold colour and objects. There is always a strong sense of balance in her work mixed with a sensitivity that appeals me and makes me linger to see what is next in her arsenal of design tricks.
Q + A
| Nader | Can you please introduce yourself and what you do?
| Alex Proba | Hi, I am Alex Proba and I’m a multidisciplinary designer originally from Germany. For the past seven years I have been based in Brooklyn, New York. Going back in time a bit, it’s rather funny that I was planning to become a dentist, only because of the influence of my parents to pick a safe career path. I did start the studies but it didn’t last for long. Instead, I studied design and launched my own multidisciplinary design studio in 2013, while having a full time job on the side. I worked two jobs for almost 5 years. I would say that Studio Proba is known for imaginative storytelling as well as bold colour and texture palettes that can be found in my rugs, murals, art work and my furniture pieces.
| Nader | Can you tell us how you got started in the world of design?
| Alex Proba | I came to NYC in 2011, not knowing that all this would happen. I took on a job in a small architecture firm in Tribeca, I was just excited to have a job in a creative field and to be in New York to be honest. A year later, I switched jobs and realised that I wasn’t happy creatively and no longer excited by what I was doing in my day job. I wished I had more hours in the day; It’s hard to have a full time job and pursue personal projects at the same time. But I felt this urge inside of me to do something greater, something I didn’t believe I was capable of doing, I needed a challenge.
This is how “A Poster A Day” started: I was working on a project late at night and felt extremely uninspired and stuck. Usually I would take a break and start reading a book or I would water my plants to get my creativity flowing again, but instead of doing the usual, I started to play around with images. I started to create beautiful graphics by playing with random shapes and colours, without thinking of a clear concept. While having fun with the shapes, lines and imagery, I realised how happy it made me to create for the sake of beauty. I wondered, Could this become a new routine? To challenge myself I decided to make one poster every day, with just one restriction, time.
In the first year of “A Poster A Day” the rule i gave myself was that I wasn’t allowed to spent more than 30 minutes on each poster. To me, this was the only way in which the project could succeed. The time limit made it so that i would not overthink the process and still have no limits or restrictions design wise. At one point I realised that it was more than just a daily routine, it started to become my personal diary. When I look back at my posters I can often recall what happened that day. It restores my past in a way and that is magical. After year one I kept on going for 3 more years and the only thing I changed in the process was to include my community and to visualise their stories build around a specific theme. I think starting “A Poster A Day” was the launch of Studio Proba, it opened all the doors for what has followed and what is yet to come.
| Nader | Where does your inspiration come from, what is your creative process?
| Alex Proba | There is not just one medium i work with, from graphic design to spatial design to furniture, i work with them all. It’s very hard to find one specific source of inspiration. Back in school I used to look into literature and design history for inspiration but that has drastically changed, instead of getting inspiration from visuals and design, I have learned how to get inspired by simple conversations with people, their stories, their emotions as well as smell.
This leads to materials; I love researching materials and their properties, to see and touch them at the same time inspires me. In general, I have to say that it isn’t necessarily visual inspiration that brings out an idea in me, it can be way more abstract than that for me. Sometimes all I need is a phone call with my grandmother to get my creative flow going. There is no process that I use to be honest, I am a maker at heart, and when I create I’m extremely happy. I try to create every single day, even if it’s only sketches of my ideas, at least it’s something. Sometimes there are moments where I use my creativity as personal therapy, sometimes when I am stuck with a project or an assignment I try to switch gears and create something off topic for a little while. A process would break me.
| Nader | How is creating vases different from your other scope of work like the poster a day project and your work in designing carpets.
| Alex Proba | The two vases I will be showcasing at the “1000 Vases” show in Paris in September are from my art series called “Unborn Objects” which I’ve started a little bit after finishing my 4th year of “A Poster A Day”. This series is based on the idea of sketching Objects and trying to bring some of them to life. In this case it’s Unborn Object 014 and Unborn Object 050. It was a whole different experience to bring flat one sided sketches of “unusual” object to life. What is the material? What is the shape from all sides? What’s the finishing? Is it flat, is it dimensional?
There were so many decisions i had to make and I basically had to start “designing” again to figure them out as objects and as you can see in the sketch and the real objects they are the same but different. It was challenging to get them fabricated and it was a fascinating experience to meet amazing people along the way like for example Walt the Beekeeper from Pennsylvania that made many different honeycomb shapes for me with his amazing bees. I’ve learned so much about beekeeping ha. It’s wonderful. Bringing something from a sketch on paper (screen) to a real thing is quite rewarding. It really felt like bringing something to life in this case.
| Nader | Can you tell us a little bit more about the fabrication process of your collection of vases, if this is the first time creating vases where there any mistakes in the process or things you came across during fabrication that you have learned from?
| Alex Proba | Talking to a lot of different people I thought it would be easy to make the two pieces. I didn’t realize how hard it would actually be to make them. First I started making them out of ceramics, I realized after a while that this was the wrong material for these very structural objects. So I started looking into glass, which I unfortunately don’t know much about, and that road led to nothing either. Finally I decided to go the metal way and tried to see if there were methods to create the objects while still highlighting the metallic textures within the sketches. This was clearly the route that led to success. One of the objects, UO 14, is made out of casted bronze. It is made in one piece with a mirrored finish on the rectangular part and a blackened finish on the sphere. The other object was even more challenging and is still in fabrication as we speak. Once it’s done it will have an amazing chameleon car paint finish and a resin durian.
Alex's 'Unborn Objects' vase collection will be premièred at '1.000 Vases', a project between September 8-10th during Paris Design Week 2018. Don't miss it.
17 rue Commines