regional roundup: austin, texas!


yee-haw! it’s time for our next regional roundup! in our quest to feature smaller, yet thriving design scenes, our latest installment takes us to austin, texas. perhaps know best for their vibrant music scene and south by southwest festival (that has grown to include other forms of media beyond music), austin is full of creative folks. so to get this roundup started, we contacted d*s favorite, alyson fox to help get the ball rolling (and we really must thank all the designers for connecting us to this growing scene). today’s installment features illustrator alyson fox, textile designer melissa cotton {poppy cotton}, poster illustrator rob jones {animal rummy}, botanical/furniture designers – frisbie design, and the all-creative, leah duncan – so make sure you CLICK HERE to read after the jump. stay tuned next week for part 2! and in the meantime, you can check out all of the regional roundups here – australia, portland [me], and iceland! [thank you, designers!] -anne

[austin print above by jennifer hill, one of her many incredible patterns for places i have never been]


Alyson Fox

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I’m an army brat so where I am from is always a tough question to answer. I was born in Texas, and am now back living and working in Austin, TX.

2. Describe your work.
My work is a combination of my fine art and a small design company that I started a little over a year ago. I wanted to start a small design company so I could combine a number of mediums that I am interested in into one on going and ever changing project. Sort of a working studio/design lab. Right now it’s limited edition silk screen posters, printed tees, totes and some jewelry. I am trying to be self-supporting so I have my energy in a few places other than my fine art. My art mostly consists of drawings on paper with pen, pencil, ink and watercolor. I am also making small sculptures for a upcoming show that I am really enjoying.

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
My work is always inspired by things that I see, hear and read about, so living in Austin is great because there are always so many things going on. We also have an amazing community that loves to support local artists and designers, which is why I think there are so many diverse talented people living and working here.

4. Where do you go in Austin when you want to feel inspired?
For ongoing inspiration I go to the Blanton  Museum of Art (on campus), The AMOA, Women and Their Work gallery and the Art house. For real quick inspiration I go to thrift stores, hardware stores and Uncommon Objects on South Congress. A good meal is also always inspiring too and sometimes what I need to keep going.

5. How would you describe the Austin design scene?
The Austin Design Scene is smart, friendly, conscious, detailed, innovative, motivating…and always surprising. From Architects to Furniture makers and Artist to Designers there is such a high bar of talent and growing that is taking place here that is always exciting to see and hear about.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
I would go to Greece. That was the first place of many that popped into my head of where I want to go sometime soon.

Click here for more of Alyson’s work.


Poppy Cotton

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I am originally from Texas.  I was born and raised on the Gulf Coast and then college in Austin.  I spent most of my 20s in Brooklyn, NY.  Now I am back in Austin, where I plan to live forever.

2. Describe your work.
I hand make home accessories (pillows, wall hangings, lampshades) out of authentic vintage textiles with wonderfully quirky prints from the 1960s and 70s.  Most of my pieces are one of a kind, or one of a handful.

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
My work has always been influenced by my upbringing in the 1970s.  Oddly enough, my childhood nursery looked like it might have been decorated with Poppy Cotton products.  I suppose it is a sub-conscious type of influence.  I started my business when I was living in Brooklyn and I certainly found myself being drawn to vintage botanicals and floral fabrics.  I think I was innately craving something fresh and nature inspired after spending stuffy winters on the fifth floor.  It was this same nature craving that made me want to move back to clean living Austin and continue my business here.  It’s literally a natural fit.

4. Where do you go in Austin when you want to feel inspired?
I always feel inspired by just stepping out into my backyard and enjoying the smells and sounds of the outdoors.  It’s not that my yard is particularly beautiful and well appointed.  It’s inspiring simply because it is mine.  It’s my first yard ever and something I have wanted since I was a little girl.  My brain works better and spills forth inspired ideas when I am squinting through sunshine.

5. How would you describe the Austin design scene?
Honestly, I don’t know much about the Austin design scene.  Pitiful, I know!  This does not reflect how I feel about Austin designers because I was almost completely uninvolved with the NY design scene as well.  I am not much of a networker or a consumer so that does not make many opportunities to find out what is going on with local design in the traditional sense.  I tend to just stick to myself and make the things that I personally like and reflect a certain feeling from the past.  I aim to stay true to my inner design voice, independent from too many outside forces, which tend to stifle me.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
I recently finished reading the classic series “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot and so I would love to go to Yorkshire.  I want to see the patchwork of rolling green farmland with the bracken and wild heather.  Many times throughout the books, James would have a few minutes between vet calls and so he would pull his car over, take a deep breath of the fresh air, and admire the naive beauty of the Yorkshire countryside.  These are the simple pleasures that float my boat and I want to experience that same scenery that gave him such peace throughout his long life.

Click here for more of Melissa’s work.

click here for the full post (and many more designers), or just click “read more” below.


Animal Rummy

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I was born in Albany, Georgia but moved to Waco when I was a year old.  Moved to Cleveland, TN in 7th Grade and then back to Albany for high school.  College in Nashville followed by post-grad in Austin where I finally got tired of packing my stuff.  So in short, I’m from and live in Dixie.

2. Describe your work
Visual rambling.

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
Since my work is practically all concert poster or album related, I have to acknowledge the music scene in Austin for giving me my start, and in particular the band Pink Swords.

A friend of mine, Dirty Steve Sanchez, started a band called Pink Swords and asked me to do all of their art.  Before this I had not really been friends with anyone in a good band (i.e. a band I voluntarily wanted to see).  Thanks to all the clubs here, Pink Swords played out a lot, usually 2 gigs a week and I made fliers, handbills, and whatever else to promote the shows.  It was a lot of fun, and I had hoped it would lead to bigger things.  It didn’t.

I’m buddies with Geoff Peveto now of Decoder Ring Design Concern here in Austin.  I asked him how to get gigs for larger bands, and his haphazard advice led to my fortuitous poster for The White Stripes gig in Lyon.  That gig led to a lot of awesome jobs with the Stripes and later with The Raconteurs.  If I had lived in a less gig poster crazy city, I’m sure I’d be making ads for baby powder now.

4. Where do you go in Austin when you want to feel inspired?
Usually nowhere more remarkable than my garage to smoke cigarettes.  I will call fellow Austin (well, Round Rock) designer Todd Slater to brainstorm or bounce ideas off of and that about wraps it up.

One place that inspired me a lot when I started was Sound Exchange, a record store lamentably lost to commerce.  That’s where my first Kozik poster came from (a birthday present from my wife).  The ceiling was an incredible gallery of poster victories past full of Koziks, Kuhns, and other folks.  One of my proudest moments came when some employee decided to staple one of my posters up there (a Riverboat Gamblers’ Halloween gig)… but then a few months later the store closed down.  I helped prepare the corpse by climbing a scary-ass giant ladder to remove the posters and sell them during Sound Exchange’s final breath.  The only thing that remains of it now is the Daniel Johnston space frog graffiti on the side of the building.  Your readers might recognize the image from the shirt Kurt Cobain always seemed to photographed in.

Movies are a big part of my life, but I generally watch them on tape.  When I actually go to a theatre in town, I always go to an Alamo Drafthouse.  I do their talent round-up for posters to advertise special screenings.  Tim Doyle (the manager of Alamo’s mercantile arm: mondotees) and I go through the screening calendar as it becomes available and decide who seems best matched to make a poster for the movies in question.  Sometimes we pick people who don’t appear on the surface very well matched just to see if something interesting happens.

5. How would you describe the Austin design scene?
I guess pretty alive.  Lot of poster people still here.  We all bowl on occasion or attend sporadic gatherings.  Outside of poster folks I’m pretty clueless thanks to my shut-in nature.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
I’m not much into traveling these days.  I was fortunate to do a lot of it in my youth, and I concluded everywhere is pretty much the same: just different degrees of how much you get stared at if you dress funny.  Every joint has some crazy history if you bother to look into it and allow yourself to get excited by it. . . . Of the places I haven’t visited, one I would enjoy experiencing would be Italy.   My wife hails from Calabrian stock (her grandfather came off the boat) and supposedly my father’s family has Italian roots.  I watched a few Italian movies before I met my wife, but since we’ve been married I’ve become more interested in their films and culture outside of antiquity (I have a minor in classics, but about the only part that grabbed me was reading all I could about Caligula and Claudius.  To this day I still get lost past the Julio-Claudian dynasty if asked to recite a list of Roman emperors).  Again, I’m not much on traveling, but it would be fun to watch my wife buzz around there and fill up empty suitcases with Limoncello.

Click here for more of Rob’s work.


Frisbie Design Concern

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
Barbara: I am originally from San Antonio but have been in Austin for about 14 years.
Brian: I am from Austin and have been here most of my life.

2. Describe your work.
Barbara: I would describe my work as botanical sculpture that utilizes custom vessels of different mediums, primarily steel, wood and cast concrete. These containers are all made by my partner in the Frisbie Design Concern, Brian Frisbie. I also collaborate with him on our furniture line. There are several pieces of exterior furniture that I helped design to include planting vessels and these pieces exemplify my tendency towards spare and sculptural.
Brian: My work consists of heavy rectangles with natural finishes of steel and wood and concrete. Cantilevers and asymmetry govern the visual balance of most of my pieces but the strength and weight of the materials allow for a more monolithic feeling when the furniture is in its setting.

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
Barbara: My work is influenced by my life in Austin, Texas primarily because I have a fascination as well as a fondness for the lush and verdant aspects of plant life. In Austin we experience an almost desert like climate most of the year. I like to interject clumping moss and atypical orchids into my work partly because it feels like an unexpected treat to encounter something so delicate and lush in our climate. I also often use native pecan vessels that literally still have a type of mushroom growing in the wood. It is called spalted pecan and it gives the wood some of its most beautiful qualities.
Brian: When possible I like to harvest steel from local demolition companies and jobsites. The wood that I use is primarily native hardwood and reclaimed lumber all milled locally.

4. Where do you go in Austin when you want to feel inspired?
Barbara: I try to go down to the east side of the hike and bike trail on Town Lake as often as possible. It is a stunning spot and usually very autonomous.
Brian: The raw materials that and the places that they come from always inspire me. I love seeing the giant machines that are used at the mill or the steel yard. The old technology that is used in such an efficient way is perpetually satisfying.

5. How would you describe the Austin design scene?
Barbara: There is truly a cross-pollination that exists in the Austin art scene. A ton of really creative people are here including a world class music scene. The musicians kind of perpetuate the vibe of the city and you can literally almost feel the creativity in the air here.

Brian:
Since I grew up here, I have always prioritized getting my work outside of Austin. I do really notice a significant change in the art scene here in the last several years and feel like architecture as an art form is making a real statement here. Also, it seems like nationally known artists are coming here because of the great quality of living and general creative atmosphere.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
Barbara: If I could go anywhere right now I would live in New Zealand for several months. I would love an opportunity to enjoy that kind of topography.

Brian:
I would love to go to Canada and experience serious winter weather.



Click here for more from Frisbie Design Concern.


Leah Duncan

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I was born and raised in the small town of Anderson, South Carolina. I currently live in downtown Austin. When my husband and I were searching for a place to start our new life together we picked out two places: Austin and Portland, Oregon. Austin was sunnier.

2. Describe your work
I really feel like I’m just getting started and at this point it is whatever pours out of my head and onto paper. I got my start as a graphic designer, so I look at everything with color and space in mind first. For Lulu Paper, my stationery studio, we have a hand-made, vintage feel with unexpected color. Beyond that, for my own silk-screening, pattern-making, and design I would say it is feminine, delicate, and slightly southern with a side of cute.

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
I am heavily influenced by nature and Texas has such an incredible landscape. I think people are often surprised when they arrive here because when you think of Texas you expect dry prairies and cactii, when truly the landscape is so diverse. Austin itself is located on the edge of Texas Hill Country. If you leave the city in any direction you will end up in a different landscape, from Big Bend Country (think old western movies) in the west to the Prairies and Lakes in the East.

Also, lately I have been heavily influenced by hispanic and latino culture, particularly Mexico because it is our neighbor to the South- and it’s not just because Austinites love Mexican food (mmmm, breakfast taco)!  We have a large hispanic population here and in my mind it is a part of what makes Austin such a unique city. I inherited an infatuation with Frida Kahlo from my sister, but I’m even finding that I am attracted to artist’s work from that region daily without realizing they live there. I’m guessing it’s the bold and rich colors that you often find in their work and you can even see it here in Austin with our neighborhoods. It’s not uncommon to pass a bright green house with purple shutters sitting right next to an orange house with bright blue trim. Architecture is anything but common here, so it really inspires you to just do your thing and not worry about everyone else.

Lastly, Austin is a very green city, so it inspires you to use less, recycle more and think bigger than yourself.

4. Where do you go in Austin when you want to feel inspired?
I love second-hand stores and my favorite is Uncommon Objects. I also live right on Lady Bird Lake so I love to go for walks on the hike and bike trails and hang out with the squirrels. I think as a creative person though it is hard not to be inspired by everything around you. I am constantly watching, absorbing, rethinking.

5. How would you describe the Austin design scene?
Diverse, quirky, eclectic, urban, sometimes vintage, and it probably has a tattoo. Austin I am convinced is the best town for independent designers and artists. The support from the local community is tremendous because everyone wants to buy local and support the local economy. There are also wonderful resources, like Babes in Biz for us ladies with crafty or art-related businesses.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
It feels like we just got back from a whirlwind honeymoon to my two dream places- Italy and the Greek Islands, which was amazing! For our next trip I would like to stay a little bit closer to home and living in Texas as I mentioned has given me a bit of a longing for Mexico, which surprisingly we’ve yet to venture to.

Click here for more of Leah’s work.

Carrie Contey

I have several pieces from Frisbie Design Concern and I LOVE their work. Barbara and Brian are not only brilliant artists but monumentally fabulous people. Thanks for featuring them. The world needs to know!

Leah

yay austin- thanks so much for the feature anne and d*s! there are so many great people here and it is an honor to be included alongside such talent!

Autumn (sugarflower design)

Hey, hey! SO nice to see a nod to our fair city. Thanks for thinking of Austin and giving your readers a glimpse at this wonderfully supportive, design-oriented community.

Bernadette Noll

Love all the designers. I have been a fan of Frisbie Design for years and have some of their earlier pieces. I love watching the evolution of artists I admire so much and acquiring pieces from each period.

Laura Mannes

I just opened an Austin office for my my company-Laura Mannes Design.
I love Austin and looking forward to being part of this fantastic town’s design communicty.

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