Interview with Alex Hughes

This week we got in touch with Alex Hughes, to talk to her about sign making and feminism.

Hi Alex! Can you describe what you do and tell us a little bit about your creative process?

I'm a sign maker that is pretty much exclusively workings on glass, with enamel based paints and gold leaf (and sometimes mother of pearl, butterfly wings etc). Most of my work is fairly type based - often commissions or personal work starts with a word or quote and the design, colours and materials fit around that.

What inspired you to start sign-making?

I love using my hands to make things! At uni, a lot of the work was very computer based and digital and I really liked the combination of man and machine, so I was screen printing a lot and ended up doing a project about old victorian signs, and so it seemed like a natural progression to pursue that once I graduated.

We would be interested to know if sign making is a particularly male dominated profession (we haven't come across many other female sign makers) and if so how do you think we could encourage more girls to get involved?

There are a lot of men; but more and more I'm meeting loads of fantastic female sign painters from all around the world. I went to Chicago last year for the first ever international female sign painting exhibition and it was so encouraging and inspiring to share stories and ideas.

Was it important for you to have other women to look up to when you were growing up?

Yeah absolutely - I think I sought them out in relatives and teachers and my friends parents - particularly from a creative aspect it is always so fascinating to see how women have carved out their own path and way of doing things.

We feel that often women are exposed to unnecessary competition with each other and struggle with the pressure to live up to the standards of other women. One of the reasons that we started this series of blogs was to celebrate the women who inspire us and encourage women and girls to support each other. Do you have any advice or ideas on how we can continue to support our sisters and help every woman thrive?

I try whenever possible to use my platform online to praise the work of other (men and) women in creative fields if I like their work and what they're doing - why wouldn't you? I use Instagram to post photos of my work and the things I make but I also like to use it a bit like a blog and highlight the work of others just because I want more people to see it and connect with it in the way I have. I think it's so important to be aware of who you're following and exposing yourself to online - if it doesn't inspire you and make you feel positive, don't follow 'em!

Can you tell us about any women that you find inspiring and why?

I find myself often turning to women who run their own creative businesses for guidance and sometimes just some advice over a strong drink. It can be a tricky thing to navigate and it can mean the world just to talk to someone who understands and has been there.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Bird by bird - which means, one thing at a time. I'm a sucker for getting overwhelmed and it reminds me to tackle things individually.

What's your biggest hope for gender equality over the next couple of years?

That real change comes into effect - I think a lot of marketing and advertising are using it as a kind of flavour of the month, but I hope the effects are lasting.


All images via Instagram and first portrait by Imogen Forte.