Today we’d like to introduce you to Katrina Alexy.
Katrina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in LA in a creative family. My mother was a bit of an eccentric who always emphasized being ourselves and celebrating our differences. Both of my parents were comparatively older and had lived through WWII and were a product of the depression, therefore thriftiness and creative reuse were daily occurrences in our house. I started making art from items others would toss out at a relatively young age and just never stopped.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think the road I took was more like a river. I got in the creative boat and just let the river take me. I wouldn’t say I plotted a specific route in life, but I always knew I would be an artist. There have been times when money was really tight and even a point went I thought maybe I should be in the “real world” so I studied science and attended Johns Hopkins, but only lasted a few months before I came running back to the safety of California and fully embraced the life of an artist. I have always been an artist who finds opportunity wherever I roam. I rarely say “no” to a project and am always open to trying new materials and working with new types of communities.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am very proud of my recycle/reuse record when I create public projects. Basically, a community in need will come to me with a problem and I find ways to creatively help them out. Most of these communities are non-profits, schools, etc. who have a limited budget but want to infuse their community with something creative. Sometimes I will create functional art if that is where the need is and sometimes I will create decorative or commemorative art, but most of my pieces incorporate items that might be tossed into a landfill.
For example, I am working on a very long outdoor seating element right now for a women’s shelter as part of a garden where they hope to seek a little bit of respite. The shelter does not have much of a budget, but they desperately need beauty and artistic elements that calm the soul so I will be using 100 percent reused tiles to create a mosaic for the seating. All these tiles come from a tile company who no longer needs these particular tiles in these hues and it is easier to toss them in the garbage than find a new home.
I have connected with the tile company to donate any and all extra tiles to me, and in turn, I am able to save my clients money and keep the tiles out of a landfill. I’ve also created wall art for the babies nursery at the shelter using discarded library books because the shelter wanted to foster a love of reading. The cost of supplies was zero. A few years ago I created a massive, suspended nest made entirely out of surplus wood from one, single construction site. The wood would have been thrown out, but I was able to secure a truckload from the site and create something that gave folks who visited the Audubon Center a lot of joy.
One of the things that sets me apart from some other artists is I am very flexible and able to work in almost any medium because I work with what I am presented with, causing me to look at materials anew and learn how to use what I am presented with. I was recently given loads of wood remnants from a small company that makes electric guitars. These pieces of wood are thick and curvy. This is forcing me to look at the material and learn more about approaches to wood. I’m hoping to make “totem poles” for a skate park with these wonderful scrap pieces of wood, but until I am presented with these cast-offs, I rarely know how to work with them.
What were you like growing up?
I was a pretty happy kid. I was given lots of freedom to roam, create, and be myself. We didn’t have a Ioy of money, but we had endless amounts of support and love and making art from found objects was free! I grew up out by Topanga in the Valley and spent a lot of time at the beach swimming in the ocean. I started creating found object art at an early age from items I found out in nature. One of my fondest memories was sitting under a Cedar tree in the rain when I was about 8 showing my sister how to make sculptures out of wet pine needles.
I have always found wonder and joy in the simplest things. We shopped a lot at thrift shops and went to flea markets where I was allowed to roam about finding odd items as a kid. My mom had an antique store where all the eccentrics hung out and my father liked to build things like boats and airplanes in our yard. It was always chaotic, yet full of life and freedom. My mom came to LA from England and somehow landed in East LA so we grew up listening to Mariachi music and singing old Irish/English tunes all at the same time.
There was always an open attitude about culture and creativity in our house. One of my main goals as an artist working with various communities and groups is to somehow share my wonder and joy for this world we are living in. I honestly feel we need more of that right now. I have always loved the planet and had great respect for its limited resources. Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed creating art from items others discarded or folks felt there was no use for anymore.