by: Yvonne de Villiers
I am pleased to announce that Alex Morgan is Luna’s new “Artist in Residence”. Though she calls the UK her actual home, Luna has been a virtual home for Alex since she was commissioned to create the artwork for our first Henna Guitar, and now we’ve made it official.
A bit of back story….when I conceived the vision of a Henna guitar it was important to me that the design be authentic, so I contacted Catherine Cartwright Jones who was preparing a dissertation on Henna for her Phd. at Kent State. Because she was too busy with her studies to take on a project, she providentially put me in touch with Alex and the rest is guitar history! Alex immediately “got” the idea and the Henna “Paradise” was born, followed by many more designs drawing on Henna and other indigenous ornamentation. It has been a true honor and pleasure to work with her on projects over the past 7 years. Her talents are both amazing and varied as you will see below, and her heart and soul shines through everything she puts her hand to.
Luna sits down for an interview with Alex so the Luna family can get to know her “in her own words”.
1. What ignited your passion for design?
I’ve always made patterns and loved drawing. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t draw, even as a small child I made patterns all the time. I decided I wanted to be an artist when I was four years old so I think it’s always been part of who I am rather than just something that I do.
2. What is your design background? (did I read that you did medical illustrations?)
After graduating in Graphic Design and Photography, I worked as a scientific illustrator at the University of Oxford. It was a job where I got to use both drawing and photography skills in an applied setting. I kept a large green inflatable frog in my studio to entertain scientists while they had their photograph taken; it helped to break the ice a little. I enjoyed the discipline of working in a scientific environment but I found it important to balance that against creative freedom. For me that’s where my love of henna art began.
3. You have at least 6 books out on ethnic ornamentation. How did you become interested in Henna design and other Styles of ornamentation?
My initial contact with henna was via a photograph of a North African woman wearing henna. She had an image of a fish marked on her palm and simple dots and lines on her fingers. I found the idea of marking hands very powerful, I was fascinated and instantly hooked!
My first project was to adapt popular contemporary tattoo styles and a few key animal totems for henna art which is a different medium from tattoo with it’s own conventions, pace and fluidity. After that I began to collect patterns from other cultures or time periods and reconstruct them to suit henna application.
The immediacy of certain types of ethnic ornamentation is what engaged me and prompted me to collect and translate these designs. Patterns can connect directly with the brain at an emotional level and I like that directness and simplicity in the art form. Humans have always been attracted to patterns and mark making, I think this is a fundamental to us all, whatever vocabulary we use, reaching across continents, cultures and time.
4. What was your reaction when first asked by Luna to design a “Henna Guitar” ?
It was a perfect moment, simply wonderful! I totally understood what Luna was hoping to achieve, the intimacy of marrying the artwork to the musical instrument to create something strong and special for the musician. At that time I was working on a collection of Medieval Spanish henna patterns, the historical connection between that place and period and the origins of the guitar itself fell perfectly into place.
5. You’ve done quite a few designs for Luna over the years…..which was the most challenging?
The henna Oasis, was tough. I think I had poured so much into the Paradise design that second one was a real battle. Strangely enough despite my battle with the artwork now Oasis is the guitar I feel most comfortable with and the one I’m learning to play.
6. Do you have a favorite?
The Paz Bass is a beautiful instrument, I enjoy the combination of the smooth shiny surface against the etched wood and Paradise is special to me because it was the first one… but my favorite is always the next one. The design on my desktop is always the instrument I’m most involved with. It’s important for me to let the others go once they leave me. They’ve grown up, left home and they perhaps they take a little piece of me out into the world with them but once they leave me it’s all about the next design moving forward.
7. If given another lifetime, what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing! I’m very lucky. Perhaps more time to continue along the path I’m on, more time more patterns, more guitars!
8. What are some of your other passions?
I enjoy working with natural dyes like henna and also indigo they add an enchantingly random result to your artwork! I also enjoy insanely bright colours, poppies, pebbles and drums but not necessarily in that order.
Here is a visual sampler of some of Alex’s other passions. You can also visit her at http://www.spellstone.com/Enjoy!
An 18″ Irish Bodhran frame drum decorated with henna commissioned by The Henna Page™ Calendar 2010. The pattern is a Celtic inspired design. The henna leaves a permanent stain in the drum skin that will continue to darken for a few months even after the henna has been removed.
An 18″ Irish Bodhran frame drum decorated with henna by. Commissioned by The Henna Page™ Calendar 2010. The pattern is a Celtic inspired design. The henna leaves a permanent stain in the drum skin that will continue to darken for a few months even after the henna has been removed.
A simple photograph from my garden this summer.
This design created using natural indigo dye; A Khamsa is a protective amuletic design believed to deflect the evil eye bringing good fortune and luck.
Close up photograph of little Jack Ant from the children’s fabric collection ‘Baby Jack’. http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/spellstone
A small glass jewel made using one of a series of indigo resist Khamsa patterns.
Henna on paper, Red Cat is an illustration from my one-man show ‘Earthfolk’ featuring mixed media images made with natural dyes. The blue is coloured pencil but the reds and oranges are all henna.
Tusk tribal Earring
Tusk earring design. Hand carved in dark/black water buffalo horn.