Pattern of Patience

Alexandra Kohl

Pattern of Patience

  • words Devin Cirillo
  • photographs Alexandra Kohl
Pattern of Patience

Pattern of Patience

While wandering upstate New York, we happened upon Hayfields Market, an isolated North Salem farm stand set amidst fields teeming with late summer produce. Stepping inside to explore, a trove of treasures swept us each into our own utopia.

Meandering, lost in our private reveries, we were drawn together towards a quiet, arresting piece. Delicately plated and framed against one wall, it demanded an intense gaze and unbroken attention. We were goners.

Up close, we saw a labyrinth of materials coming together, with an obedient maze of threads looping in horizontal and vertical patterns, blending horsehair and cotton into a seemingly impossible tango of patterns. Was this piece made by hands as far gone as the 17th century, or by some contemporary modern mystery?

Square woven textile design

Pattern of Patience

Enter Alexandra Kohl: an unassuming, twenty-three-year-old daydream of a girl whose own history, it turns out, is as enchanting as her art.

Alexandra was a creative soul from the start. As a child, she fantasized a future as an artist and an equestrian, and so spent the bulk of her younger days tucked away in her family’s basement, dreaming up creations in what she called her “Craft Room”.  

As she matured, she honed her focus from general arts & crafts to exploring specific skills, embracing the challenge of a Studio Art degree at Skidmore College. Her hands yearned to be an active part of each creation. She found herself inspired by work that demanded physical connection to the process, rather than computers and digital programs. While digital design would have been one path to follow, she stayed resolute that there was something else out there for her.

It wasn’t until her final year that she discovered where her heart belonged.

 

 

 

Alexandra Designing in her studio

 

When Alexandra first walked into a Textile Design studio, her pulse quickened. The walls burst with plump balls of yarn in a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and spools. In the corner sat a colossal loom. There, entrancing in the dance of wooden fingers and its slow, swan-like nod, was all that she’d been holding out for. Her path, her parallel, her passion: Textile Design.

“To see how fabric is actually made is incredible. To thread hundreds of heddles [like needles] is something most people don’t imagine. I was absolutely blown away.”

From that first meeting, a classic college love story emerged. She spent the days and nights that followed exploring and mastering the skills required for her new passion. And then she found a way to weave her two deepest loves — horses and art — into original expressions. Alexandra displayed a few of her textiles at her senior thesis showcase, hanging her work among the troves of paintings, sketches, and graphics that decorated the walls.

“I was a little bit nervous about it. I didn’t really think that my work would fit in. I was the only one sitting there with just a woven textile,” she says, the humility and youth in that moment evident. “But I just sat there and thought, ‘Whatever, this is my work, I don’t really care. It’s different.’ Then it got so much attention. I was awarded top honors for the show. People were coming up to me, wanting to buy it.”

 

Pattern of Patience

In that moment, a craft she’d once fancied a hobby began to take the shape of something with much greater potential. The foundation of Alexandra’s business was laid. That same night, she invested in a loom.

Today, Alexandra has her own studio. Complete with her own shelves of thread, a small window that lets in oceans of light, and a Schacht 4-Harness baby wolf loom that sits just below. The beautiful irony? It’s the same room, tucked into the basement of her childhood home, that she once lovingly deemed the “Craft Room”.

There she performs the meticulous, manically detailed process that goes into creating her work; a process that can take up to ten hours to set up alone (the preparation a project within itself). Much more mathematical than it may seem to the outside eye, her process is one that requires an unbroken patience, from counting the threads before she dresses, to measuring the length of the warp.

“It’s very meditative…there’s a lot of repetition so it naturally slows you down. You have to be extremely considerate — it’s very different from anything else that exists today. The whole process suits me as a designer: the mathematics of the planning, the selection of fibers, and the deliberate attention to craft.” The process seems to suit her spirit, too: Alexandra swears she is both physically and mentally healthier as a result of the practice.

 

Pattern of Patience
Pattern of Patience

As for the inspiration behind her work, she finds herself largely influenced by the form and color expressed in architectural minimalism. The feeling of the contrast between the simplicity and complexity is a foreign, arresting chord she aims to hit.

“The recognition of how simple design can be powerful moves me. My work is very simple; basically, it’s a couple squares on a piece of fabric. It’s the way it’s framed that pushes the viewer to take an extra minute to discover what it is. I want my work to invite people to see something new. I want to make them look a little harder, and actually think about what’s in front of them.”

Connect with Alexandra
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To learn more about Alexandra Kohl check out her Q&A.

Q&A

A percentage of your sales support Our Farm in North Salem. It would be great to hear more about this cause and why it is so important to you and your work.

I have been passionate about horses since I began riding at age seven. There’s a beauty and strength to these animals that so many of us are intuitively attracted to. Too often, they are abandoned because they no longer serve the needs for which they were trained, because of an injury, or because the owner decides they can no longer support them.

Our Farm provides a beautiful refuge for such horses. They take horses that are about to be sold to a kill farm, bring them back to health, and train them to be ridden.

I want to help spread their story by highlighting their work and contributing a part of my own profits.

What tool in your toolbox could you not live without?
My scissors are so important! I have so many different pairs of scissors for different materials. I’m careful not to use my scissors for anything else or they will dull.

The one piece of advice you would share with others toying with the idea of forgoing their own path?
If you have something different to offer, you should share it. And keep going. Don’t rest. Keep working. Find a side job if you have to, but never, never stop.

Has horsehair always been your medium of choice?
I love working with natural materials, nothing synthetic or artificially dyed. The natural tones in horsehair vary beautifully, and the textures themselves are unique, even from one animal to the next.

Do you create custom art pieces?
Many clients commission me to use hair from the tails or manes of their own horses. It’s one of my favorite aspects of my work, to create a custom piece that is sourced from a person’s own animal.

How would you describe your lifestyle using 3 words? Challenging. Different. Natural.

What would be your dream outcome for you and your craft? 
I would love to have my pieces hanging in homes where the craftwork and horse essence is appreciated. Since my textile designs complement contemporary architecture, it would be wonderful to have them hanging in large public spaces where a lot of people can enjoy their quiet beauty.

What inspires you to create?
I am inspired by the feedback I get when people see my work framed. Their recognition of how simple design can be powerful moves me.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you have any favorite resources you can share with us?
I am always inspired by being outdoors: in the woods, or in fields with stone walls. Rustic industrial architecture really draws me in, as well as barns, all kinds. I spend a lot of time paging through design and architecture magazines and Pinterest, too.

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