We initially came across Alex through Tiwa Select, the shop and gallery he founded. We were drawn to his beautiful selection and curation of folk art, homewares, and found objects and artefacts. Upon reaching out to him, we learned he had just moved to Los Angeles from the Bay Area. On a recent weekday morning, we headed over to his new place to meet for a coffee and homemade fig galettes!
Originally from Wales, UK, Alex's path has brought him around the world. His journey, along with his work as a creative director and writer (in addition to Tiwa Select), all make for a story we found intriguing and inspiring.
Perhaps most importantly, Alex is the sweetest, nicest person! We had a lovely morning with him, along with our friend Justin Chung, and hope you enjoy the photos and interview!
Do you have a morning ritual?
I do! My alarm clock is the puppy—Ivo, a 6-month rescue mutt. We take a stroll up the hillside behind my house; I love L.A. in the morning before the heat creeps in. The hillside is covered in cacti and pepper trees so it really wakes up the senses. Sometimes I'll squeeze a bit of gardening in - I've been taking cacti cuttings from empty lots and planting a little patch at the back of the garden. My garden is long, so I'll take a camping burner and my Moka Pot with me so that I have fresh coffee without having to schlepp down to the kitchen. I love making the coffee with a view.
Could you tell us a bit about your work?
I'm a creative director and writer, and the founder and owner of Tiwa Select. I currently live in Los Angeles, but originally hail from the wild mountains of Wales, UK.
My love for folk art runs back many years now, but it was a visit to Japan in 2019 that was the catalyst for me to open the store, and to celebrate domestic folk craft. Recently, I've started collaborating with artists to create one-off ceramics and textile pieces, and I specifically like working with artists with little (or no) formal training.
I also self-publish The Anonymous Sex Journal, a printed magazine which publishes personal sex stories submitted by readers in secret, and illustrated by a rotating selection of artists. I live with my dog, Ivo, in a 130-year-old house filled with objects I've picked up from my travels.
You recently moved to Los Angeles (welcome!). Where else have you lived, and what has prompted the moves to different places around the world?
I'm a tumbleweed! Before living in L.A., I was up in Berkeley living in a redwood barn that I used as a showroom for the textiles and ceramics that I collect and sell. I've always moved a lot - as a child, we lived in Wales, then moved to Italy to the foothills of the Alps. The travel thing stuck; I spent just under a year living in Mumbai, studied in Buenos Aires, and took my first job at the Venice Biennale, so lived back in Italy for a bit in my early twenties. I really enjoy having to figure out a new place, and being surprised and charmed by the things that locals might find mundane.
I like the challenge of new rituals, and enjoying being surrounded by something different to look at.. I think it keeps life interesting. Next up is Mexico City I think..
What do you like about Los Angeles?Oh it's just so mythical isn't it? It's this place that is constantly represented and referenced in culture: films, literature, music, art.. So when you're here it feels otherworldly, like it doesn't actually exist, except it does and you are walking around (or driving around) in it.It has a draw for so many creatives and I think it's because nobody fully understands it; layers and stories sit so strangely together here. For example, I like the sort of L.A. noir that you see in crumbling Koreatown apartment buildings, and the gothic bridges over the river in Downtown, and the city after dark.Then I love the little casitas, tumbling bougainvillea and winding alleyways of the Silver Lake Hills, which just feel the opposite of that.. you can basically place yourself in any narrative you like here, it's complex, and I like complex cities. I feel Mexico City has that, too, and Naples.
It seems like your relationship to the land is integral to your relationship to home. What makes a place home for you? What are your favorite parts of having a home?
I've been very lucky with the run of buildings I've lived in, or rather.. I only move if the right home is available. Where I live is really important to my work, and I like living somewhere that functions both as an inspiration, and as a canvas. I love that this spot in L.A. is essentially a large, white, wooden farmhouse, the opposite of my place in Berkeley which was a dark, redwood workshop. My friends Ted and Jessie bought this property and restored it, preserving the soul of the building, but allowing it to open up and feel integrated with the garden. It's been joyful to see my textiles, quilts, wall hangings, and ceramics take a new life here.
When I live in a space, I see it as an opportunity to use objects and decoration for different purposes. A bedspread may become a wall hanging in one home, or a giant decorative tablecloth in another. I also see gardens as an extension of the home, and am not sure I could live somewhere without outdoor space. Of course, it's a total luxury to be able to factor that in, but it's something I do prioritize. I find a living garden, and maintaining that life, is really important to my wellbeing.
What's a typical work day like for you?
Things are moving along so fast with Tiwa Select. I do a lot of research into new artists I'd like to work with. Most recently, I met with Sarah Nsikak who founded A La Reunion; she collects scrap fabric from manufacturers around New York City (and beyond) and fashions them into cosmic patchwork smocks. We're going to make some kitchen smocks for the store. I'm currently exhibiting works by two artists I sell, Megumi Shauna Arai, who makes incredible boro (Japanese patchwork) pieces, and Jim McDowell, who makes face-jugs, an artform associated with enslaved people in the American South.
Since the show, there has been a lot of press interest, so I've been keeping up with that to ensure the right stories are being told (by the people who should be telling them). I'm also planning my first gallery event in early December, so have been commissioning pieces for that, mostly homewares and ceramics.
What was the path into doing the kind of creative work you do?
The gallery and shop are pretty young still. I've been interested in folk art for a while now, but it took a trip to Japan last year to convert that interest into a business. I'm excited to see where it goes.
My other work is as a creative director and writer. I was at NOWNESS for a number of years in its infancy, commissioning stories and film pieces; NOWNESS really was a pioneer of editorial film and online content—it's so wild to think about how normal that is now. It was great fun. That said, I'm enjoying a more offline existence with Tiwa Select.
You recently made your first overland trip across the US. How was the road trip? Any insights or surprise finds along the way?
Oh wow, it was such a trip. I'm really happy I did it. We were supposed to be in Europe this summer, so this felt like a great pandemic alternative. I loved discovering swimming holes and waterfalls and hot springs across the Southwest and Colorado. I loved the archaeological sites in this area too—we visited Hovenweep, a 13th century Pueblo settlement, that's still very much intact and was really special; we also visited Mesa Verde which was also achingly beautiful.
I knew America was vast but I wasn't expecting the kind of scale we encountered along the way; the mountains, the canyons, the mesas. It felt otherworldly at times. I think a lot of Europeans like me are awestruck by the grandness of this continent.
All photos by Justin Chung.