Alexandra Carr: Winner of The Belmond Award discusses the world of design and sustainability

Written by Imogen Morris

Check out Alexandra Carr’s website:

Cover photo: Growth (2019), Alexandra Carr

“In a world where we think of objects as less sacred and easily disposable, I want to examine and question the reasons behind this trend with my current and future research.”

We spoke to the lovely Alexandra Carr, a multi-disciplinary, award-winning designer who uses art and crafting with digital manufacturing and lighting design to explore the links between functionality and sustainability – she told YOUTH that a lot of her work consists of “experimenting with 3D printing and light, and how I can change materials textures to create new forms.”

For Alexandra, school was the start of her journey with creating art, finding inspiration from films, photography, and the YBA artists, “nowadays I think I am probably leaning towards finding small designers that do work similar to my own rather than those of big artists.” During her art foundation at Warwickshire College, she discovered her passion for design rather than fine art. “I wanted to make things, but I also wanted for them to have some form of functionality,” she told us. “I’m really into sustainability. The ability for the things you make and bring into the world to have purpose was really important to me.” Alexandra explained she was drawn to the eco-friendly energy of Plymouth, where she went on to study 3D Design at university. “I got to be by the sea which I love. I find nature really inspiring, like going to the beach and going up to Dartmoor. I get a lot of my visual references from there.”

When discussing more of Alexandra’s influences and her process, she explained, “find designers that have created their own philosophies about why they work in the way they do, and you can mirror your own ways of thinking and working around that. You develop your own identity I guess.” On delving deeper into her creative process: “At the start [of a project] you need to be letting that ‘flow’ happen, not giving yourself much of a timetable and let the mistakes happen. Then that strictness needs to come at the end and when you’re thinking about how you’re marketing yourself and communicating your ideas to an audience.”

One project we were particularly drawn to is Alexandra’s 2018 project ‘Milk’, which is a lampshade created out of milk bottles (HDPE plastic), showing how plastic can be manipulated to change people’s perception of the material; it started through “playing around with heating and cooling plastic,” she said. “We have a really temporary view of [plastic], when actually it is a really permanent impact on our world.” The project was about “flipping a material on its head” and changing our perspectives from something that we view as dirty and temporary to something that is precious and beautiful. “I could see lots of potential in it,” Alexandra said. “I don’t feel like I’ve finished with it yet, I want to go back to it.”

We asked about what material has been a favourite to work with and explore in Alexandra’s work, “so far probably plastic, in all different forms.” Alexandra described how her love for the way light moves through materials and be manipulated drew her to investigate plastic and it’s transparent and translucent qualities. “That’s what I was interested in, how I could manipulate the different qualities of the material.” When we asked what Alexandra’s favourite piece of hers was, she told us that “[Milk] is probably the one where my mindset shifted. That was the first project where I was really beginning to see that I had this narrative that I was forming for myself in the pieces that I was creating.”

Above: Alexandra Carr's 2018 project 'Milk', a lampshade made out of HDPE plastic from milk bottles.

Another piece we discussed was Alexandra’s ‘Cluster’. “[Cluster] was about bringing plastic and 3D printing – both quite techy, cold subjects – and bringing into it handmade sewing and embroidery, those much more warm, human-centric techniques, and bringing them together and seeing what would happen.” Alexandra keeps track of the process when creating pieces such as Cluster, “for me that’s the most important thing. That’s the exciting bit...” she told us. “That’s how you create new ideas, by investigating the processes involved, it’s good to play on your own ways of thinking. I love thinking about how things are put together.”

Cluster gained Alexandra a lot of media attention (deservingly), winning the Belmond Award at ‘New Designers’ last year, which is a vast showcase of design students work from different universities, exhibited in London where big companies can give out awards/scholarships/opportunities and scout out emerging talent. Alexandra now has the amazing opportunity to design a product for one of Belmond’s well-known and high luxury properties this year! Alexandra also won the Devon Guild of Craftsman Visual Arts Prize – an award at Plymouth University given to outstanding students.

Alexandra is currently studying MA Design, and hopes to be making as much as she can and looking out for new opportunities. “None of that is actually going to happen unless I am actually creating new things, focussing on that first – developing that creative narrative and voice that I am creating for myself.” Alexandra discussed how “keeping the ball rolling” can be difficult during lockdown, as many others would agree. “I’m trying to not put too much pressure on myself now because the world is very slow at the moment, and there is going to be lots of opportunities in six months time.” Many creative people can understand and empathise with Alexandra’s feelings during the lockdown, “I think one thing that is really important to remember - especially when you are creative - is that this time at the moment is so exhausting for everyone,” she wisely put. “If you haven’t got the energy to be writing novels and painting your best paintings, that is a sign that in normal life you were taking in all of those opportunities and experiences, and if they’re not happening right now that is okay.” When we discussed the arts industries, Alexandra advised, “respect what you are doing and be proud of it! If you’ve got people around you who don’t think what you are doing is worthwhile, just prove them wrong. You’ll be happier because you’re doing something you love!”

Alexandra was so interesting to speak to and there was so much to take away from what she told us; her portfolio is super interesting, and so worth checking out – the link to her website is at the top of the article. She is such a cool, talented person and we are so excited for all the opportunities coming her way! Alexandra is definitely a talent to keep an eye on for design and is great to look up to for younger creative people.

Thank you to Alexandra for taking the time to speak to us and share her wisdom, we wish her all the best going forward!