Meet Alexa Ong: local illustrator and freelance art director; the owner of Wood&Lead (her creative avenue for whimsically crafted products).
We visited her studio at Pearl's Hill Terrace on a relaxed Saturday morning. Sharing the space with other like-minded creatives, Alexa makes this intimate corner of the room her home away from home. With a family of house plants lined along the ledge of the window by her desk, and a collage of framed prints dotting her studio wall, her workspace is reflective of her creative practice that is playful, homely and relatable.
Gathering around a large communal table in the studio, we delved into conversation on her creative journey and practice, while sharing laughter and yet another of life's simple pleasures - in the form of one too many chocolate bars.
When I first started the label, I did everything out from home and that blurred the lines between personal life and work for me. It was incredibly challenging to stay centered as I get affected by my immediate spatial environment. Now that you’ve settled in your studio, how do you think being in a separate space affects the relationship between an artist and his/her creative practice?
Being in a space carved out especially for my practice makes the time spent on my art more focused. I am pretty much nomadic when it comes to work, but having a studio to house my works and tools makes my practice feel more intimate. It also gives me the extra ‘headspace’ to experiment on new ideas and concepts without distractions.
I simply love the languidness of your illustrations, your play of words and the way you manage to capture the essence of living in the moment through your works. There's this intangible quality about them that's fun, spontaneous yet comforting at the same time. How did you develop your own sense of aesthetic and illustration style?
I wouldn’t say that I have an intentional process when it comes to looking for inspiration. I think one thing that helped me a lot is to be constantly curious about the different forms of creative expressions and to view new forms of arts with an open mind. I am also greatly inspired by literature – I love how simple words strung together can convey such deep emotions and create strong imageries which I love exploring in my art.
I have always been drawn to works that are raw and painterly. When I first started Wood&Lead, it was an outlet for me to tear away from commercial design work. I found respite in my practice and I guess my works are a reflection of my longing to dwell in the simple moments. My sense of aesthetic is always changing and I kind of enjoy that. I believe that your art should always grow with you.
As an illustrator whose works are mainly inspired by literature and travel, do you have a favourite method of documenting moments while on the move?
Before I got into the habit of sketching, I found photography to be a quick way for me to frame moments and capture an emotional connection to the scene before me. I feel like I can always revisit those moments and channel them into my creative outputs.
These days, I prefer to go around with my sketchbook and markers, putting moments on paper. I consider this a challenge to myself, to take in details that stand out in a single moment and channeling my observations into a collage of lines and textures. This gives me ownership as an illustrator over a simple act of documentation, in the way I choose to interpret it in a chosen medium or style, making it uniquely mine.
All designers hit a creative block from time to time. When that happens, how do you find your way back on track?
I would just take some time out to sit by myself in a cafe to clear my head in writing. I best articulate my thoughts in words and I am able to "Marie Kondo" my thoughts more effectively. I also love to just chill out with a good book or visit museums where I sometimes gain valuable insights into how I can better my creative practice over internal monologues while viewing others' works.
What is the last thing you’ve read or watched that has inspired you?
There isn’t a specific article that comes to mind but I have been noticing an increase in art practices that aim to bring about social impact. As a large part of my works are still mainly commercial, I feel like I need to start thinking of how I can use my art to serve a greater purpose.
As we’re faced with flux on a constant basis, the unknown can be very daunting. Why did you take this leap to be a freelancer?
It was during a time when I was increasingly frustrated as a young creative. I wanted creative control over my own works and to collaborate with people who share the same vision and passion for design and craft. Being a freelancer has allowed me to work and learn from creatives who are outstanding in their fields and that inspires me to strive to be better.
While there will always be fear and instability as a freelancer, it drives me to take on projects that I may not be entirely comfortable with and sometimes, these experiences in turn become invaluable to my creative journey.
If you could turn back time, what would you do and decide differently in relation to your creative journey?
I would be more serious in learning how to be more business savvy when it comes to running an outfit which provides design/illustration services. I am quite an idealist when it comes to my craft, so I tend to overcompensate with my time. As a one-woman show, I find myself burning out a lot these days and I am still trying to find a solution for that.
The Weekend Sundries Woman is a series of narrative photos and conversations, featuring authentic, independent women in their most familiar element and craft. We hope this project elicits thoughts and discussion about the nature of the modern woman today - her growth, her challenges, and her comforts. At our studio, we are inspired by the beauty found in the imperfect, the raw — in one's commonplace. We believe finding rest and a moment of pause in this hectic world is the key to thriving.