I met the lovely Alexis Mattox at ALT Summit this past January when I sat in on her panel on launching a product line. I’m thinking of doing the same earlier this year and it was incredibly inspiring to hear from a pro like Alexis. You may have spotted her greeting cards, cake toppers and various stationery products at Anthroplogie or J. Crew.
The coolest part? Alexis manufactures all of her own product via her studio, Alexis Mattox Design. I chatted with Alexis recently on how she got her start as an industrial designer to launching collaborations with major national brands. Meet Alexis everyone!
How did you decide on a career in stationery and design?
I have always loved art since I was a little girl. I would spend hours and hours at my little pink desk in my kitchen drawing and painting and my teachers in school always said I used more than my share of paper during art classes. I should have known then that I would be a designer.
It took me a while to settle on a career, but I have always been a pretty independent person, so the idea of starting my own business really suited me. I love working in all sorts of mediums, but paper has a special place, because you can take something so simple and make it really unique.
What drew you to laser-cut products?
My love for laser-cut products started when I was in college. I studied Industrial Design and laser-cutting machines (along with lots of other fun tools!) that are used in prototyping new products. I loved exploring the endless possibilities of these tools and found myself spending a lot of time thinking about products I could create.
While we use many techniques to manufacture our products, I love that our goods have a hand-finished quality to them. I hope people always get the sense that they are unique and came from our little studio with love.
Have you always worked for yourself? What lead you to starting your own company?
I started my company shortly after graduating from college. My husband was still in school and I wanted a hobby to pursue outside of my regular job. I had goals of what I wanted to accomplish, but I never imagined where things could go from there.
After about a year of doing things just for fun, I decided that I wanted to push things to the next level and try taking my products to a national and international level. It was a little scary, but I am so happy that it was a gamble that paid off.
What is a life cycle of a product that goes from conception to retail?
For a small company like us, the life cycle of a product really varies. We try lots of new products all the time and so naturally some have more longevity than others. We start each new product with a sketch and a prototype. Since we manufacture all our own goods in our studio, our products go to market very quickly. Once we like the prototype, we design packaging, determine pricing and then spread the word.
We have been very fortunate to be approached by many amazing national retailers to carry my products. Many of these relationships were developed at trade shows and through media events. Sometimes it is about doing your best and getting yourself out there so people can find you. We love getting to work with tiny brick and mortar shops throughout the world and big retailers because I feel like it helps us stay balanced and keep our products fresh and modern.
Where do you find your design inspiration?
My inspiration comes from everything around me. I have eclectic taste in everything from classic renaissance paintings, to ultra modern architecture. Alexis Mattox Design products have classic elements, but I like to keep things modern. I spend time each day reading and looking for things that make me feel motivated and get my creativity flowing. Creativity needs to be nurtured everyday to grow.
What was the most important non-negotiable thing for you when designing your lifestyle and work life?
At the start of my solo career, I didn’t plan a work-life balance because things took off so quickly, I didn’t have really have time to make a plan. I am grateful to say that things are different now!
My husband recently started working with me full time at Alexis Mattox Design, so I would say the most important thing for us now is keeping a healthy balance of personal and business. This means setting boundaries about when we work, where we work and always making sure to take time just for ourselves. We are so excited to have a baby girl on the way so the balancing act will become even more important when she arrives this summer!
What do you do to de-stress?
I love to do all sorts of things to take a break after a long day of work – painting, cooking, exercising, cleaning, long walks, watching a good movie, working on home remodeling and decorating projects for our old Victorian house and nothing beats a good nap!
What’s your typical day like?
My typical day is never the same. Owning a small business means there is a whole lot of juggling to do each day and new projects that keep me on my toes. It is wonderful because it forces me to grow and push myself. In general, I spend time generating new ideas for our collections and producing designs, emailing clients, coordinating production and working with my team.
What did you study in college and is there anything you would have done differently?
In college I explored a lot of different areas before finding my perfect fit in Industrial Design, which is the field of product design and development. It combined so many of my interests and suited me really well because of the varied nature of the work.
Whatever you do, be passionate about it. I spent so much time at school because I loved it and I always wanted to push myself more and more. Looking back, I wish I could have done even more, because school is such a great time to explore and practice your craft.
Best piece of life advice to share?
Trust the people who trust in you. My husband was the one who really encouraged me that I could turn my ideas into products that people would love when I didn’t have faith in myself. I find that I am able to be most creative and generate my best work when I stay positive and trust my instincts. Chances are, if you love what you are making, others will too!
Loved this? Read our other This Beautiful Life interviews!