Frankly, The Folksy Magazine


Meet… Alix Swan

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 4 minutes.

Thumbalina Foldout

Alix Swan’s work always makes me wish I was more of a daydreamer. Fairy tales and fantasy are her thing and she does it well. Tiny keepsake story books using illustration, digital imagery and quotations from our favourite bedtime stories are designed and hand bound with a contemporary feel. The perfect Christmas gift for the girl (young or old!) that has everything. Curl yourself up and get ready to daydream with Folksy artist Alix Swan.

Tell us about your work.

Described as a ‘textile artist, ‘fine art bookmaker’, sometimes ‘paper artist’, I am a designer-maker with a love of combining paper, print, graphics, textiles and found materials. Everything is made by me. I cut, sew and assemble by hand. I have a computer, digital camera and four old typewriters and my home is a treasure trove of found and second-hand materials. I am happiest working on a small, even miniature, scale and my eye for detail and finish is of great importance. The themes of my work are vintage stories, rhymes and sayings. I have learnt the universal human need for these traditional forms and the importance of keeping them alive which is why I offer my work as a quirky twist on the traditional that connects with reminiscence, rediscovery and joy.

Alix Swan Books
Alix Swan - Books

What’s your favourite piece of work?

My favourite piece to date went to a new home from my stand at ‘Origin’ in 2009. A one-off interactive wallpiece, ‘The Princess and the Pea’, it consisted of a found wooden box (37x26x15cm) opening to reveal a paper doll dressed as a princess sitting beneath a bookshelf with a hidden story book, shoes and the pea itself together with a music box playing the tune ‘Beautiful Dreamer’.

Alix Swan - 'The Princess and the Pea'
Alix Swan - 'The Princess and the Pea'

When did it all begin for you?

If you ask my mother, she will say I have been doing this since I was knee-high and I can’t remember a time when I was not drawing, cutting, sticking and making little books and illustrations. In the final year of my degree I branched out into 3D illustration and when I did my MA I found all the elements came together to produce a collection that now ranges from small book works to individual one-off pieces.

Alix Swan as a child
Alix Swan as a child

Tell us about your workspace?

I am lucky now to have a room in my house that is just for working. It is organised chaos because I always have more than one project on the go and items I collect may have to wait some time before they find a home in a new piece of work.

Alix Swan workspace
Alix Swan workspace

How do you keep your work unique?

I have a particular, eclectic style of illustration that combines drawing, collage, digital photography, textiles and print that is recognisably mine. I like the descriptions of my work as quirky and amusing so, although I enjoy wide ranging inspirations, I am not seeking to reproduce what has gone before but love to find a new twist.

Alix Swan - 'The Frog Prince'
Alix Swan - 'The Frog Prince'

Describe your day as a crafter? Are you organised/disciplined?

No two days are the same! As I can only work on my craft part-time at the moment, I have to be very organised and disciplined. My usual patterns are periods of subconscious development, intense bursts of studio time and busy days of exhibiting and selling.

Alix Swan at a work
Alix Swan at a work

What three tools could you not live without?

Three is not enough, but, certainly, I could not work without a scalpel blade, a metal ruler and a fine liner pen.

What gets the creative juices flowing when creativity is stifled?

I look through my collection of illustrated stories, magazines and visit craft fairs, exhibitions and galleries.

Alix Swan - Badges
Alix Swan - Badges

Are you inspired by any artists from the past or present?

I enjoy the work of a wealth of illustrators but three significant artists for me from the past are Sir John Tenniel, Ernest H. Shepard and Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann and more recently Quentin Blake, Oliver Jeffers and Sara Fanelli.

Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers

How do you know when a piece is done?

Any piece is finished when its design impulse is satisfied.

What do you love most about being a crafter?

It is just something I have to do, but I get the greatest pleasure when someone else enjoys it too.

Thanks so much to Alix and her dreamy designs. You can see and buy lots more of her work in her Folksy Shop.