Al’s Place by Alice Kelly

As we begin to enter our second lock down and I start to write this introduction for ‘Al’s Place’, the two seemingly are counter opposites. What or how could bright and bold woven mirrors and rugs have anything to do with a global pandemic?

WELL, Alice, the owner, creator and maker or Al’s Place has dedicated her lockdown time to perfecting the art of tufting -as have many people, with rugs popping up everywhere! However, Alice has truly nailed it, with super bold, perfectly clashing colour combinations and graphic but simple designs- these mirrors and rugs are some of the stand out tufting work I’ve seen.

With only a few mirrors made and sold monthly, these babies sell out fast. Each one is individual and handmade; which is a rarity in these mass produced, consumer driven times- Alice is focussed on quality over quantity…and it shows.

I think it is no coincidence that this platform I’m working on has emerged out of these strange times but also that I am spoilt for choice when approaching awesome small businesses to take part. Many of these are the result of this strange year, which is an absolute positive to take away from all this- to see that many, including Alice, have used this time to master a skill and create something for themselves. That is in no way meant to disparage those that have chosen Netflix over the tufting gun…hello! I’m right there with you. BUT it is a positive to take away and Al’s Place is absolute evidence of that.

See what Alice had to say to the usual questions below…

1.Tell us about yourself and your brand. 

I’m Alice & I’m the founder of Al’s Place (it feels funny saying that)! I started Al’s Place properly in June after having to come home from travelling Australia due to covid, which I’m now grateful for because it gave me the opportunity to grow my business & have the freedom to be creative! My first ever tufted pieces were my 2 degree show rugs, I remember seeing tufting on instagram and I rung my mum instantly like “I NEED a tufting gun!”. My aim with Al’s Place to make products to brighten up peoples home with colour and texture, my most popular item at the moment is my tufted mirrors! When I made my first tufted mirror, it was just an experiment that I thought wouldn’t really work & I’d just keep it for myself, now they sell out in minutes! Experimenting with different mediums and not giving up when we don’t get it right the first time always work out so much better than we anticipate! I currently make everything myself in my little studio in the UK and my next mirror drop will be in November. 

2.What are your inspirations?

I honestly just love anything colourful, because currently working from home a lot of my recent inspiration has come from everyday life and online. I also like using instagram and as inspiration, following creatives helps and I also find amazing colour combinations on there! But inspiration always comes at the most random times, I’m constantly scribbling down every idea that comes to my mind.

3.Lets chat about social media – a hindrance or help? 

I definitely think its a big help! It’s important to be following the right people, so if you end up in a scroll you’re being inspired by other creatives! I think finding the right balance with social media is so important, I do try and limit my time on social media. Otherwise, it can be hard to actually turn off!

4.Where would you like your business to be in a few years and do you have any advice?

I would like to be in a bigger studio! I’d like to still be making mirrors & rugs. I also want to have experimented with other interior based items like cushions, maybe some different shapes and sizes of tufted mirrors too! My advice would be to be excited and passionate about your product and other people will be to! Make sure you’re loving everything you’re creating!

5.Who are your favourite small businesses or creatives doing interesting things?

I love @theflowerandtheflea on instagram, Amber makes flower charms using rare & colourful vintage glass beads from the 30’s-60’s which she finds at thrift markets. I absolutely love thrift markets and charity shops so her ethos is right up my street! I also love the charms and wear mine everyday. 

@zoejanebb makes the most beautiful delicate ceramics in lovely pastel colours! I love her checkered and cow print vases as well as her ‘sunbathing lady’ ceramics. Her mug drop is coming soon & I’m v excited!

I also love @protocole_bourgeois, making lovely paper lamps in lots of designs! I love the nude checkered hanging lamp.

Ugly Rugly by Lauren and Cole

As you read through Lauren and Coles’ inspirations in the below blog post, you instantly, or I do anyway, want to be their friend. From Anni Albers to recent theories on the big bang, these inspirations aren’t on all your usual go-to mood boards and that makes me happy and comforted- like a big warm aesthetically pleasing and historically engaging hug.

Ugly Rugly (named after the first rug Lauren made) is a melting pot of handmade goods, in all my favourite colours. From coasters that look like the word ‘splat!’; massive, beautifully made graphic rugs; to awesome interchangeable bags. It’s all fun but with good design practices and sturdy materials throughout their collections. With that in mind, I love to see what is happening currently in New York with so many creative small business emerging and gaining recognition, moving beyond Instagram and looking at expansion: Ugly Rugly is very much a part of this movement. With their sights set on expanding their product archive and opening a space to share their vision and broaden their community.

The funny thing about Instagram is that its this humongous global app with millions of people on it. However, so far, many of the businesses I chat to that begin there are so centred on community, focussing on locality as well as honing and nurturing their craft. It’s refreshing…and that is what Ugly Rugly (and so many of these businesses are) is, refreshing. Good quality products, considered and well made with a wonderful ethos behind it.

Here is what Lauren and Cole had to say…

  1. Tell us about yourself and your brand.

Hi there! I’m Lauren and I am the co-founder of Ugly Rugly. My husband, Cole, and I began Ugly Rugly in 2018 as a side project making funky rugs and other textile-y homegoods. The name Ugly Rugly comes from the first rug I made, it was a very wonky uneven rag rug (that still lives in my kitchen!) and I called it my little Ugly Rugly it is imperfect but it brings so much joy to me that I just wanted to keep making more rugs!

My background is in Fashion Design and Retail. I started Ugly Rugly as a side project while I was working at a corporate job. I wasn’t miserable there but I just felt like I wanted to do more. So I started playing around with making rag rugs and rope rugs, from there Cole came on board and we taught ourselves how to use a tufting gun and began creating bright and unusual rugs and home goods. We love to push our mediums, using rope in new ways, playing with unconventional silhouettes and abstract motifs. Our whole purpose with Ugly Rugly is to have fun with it and make objects for your home that make you laugh and lighten up a space. We do most of our production in-house and that’s one of the best parts for me. I love to sew and make things, but I especially love production and manufacturing. The covid crisis has really messed up our production schedule and made timing things very difficult but we just moved into a little studio in Brooklyn NY and are working on releasing some new rugs and other items in (hopefully!) November that we’re really excited about.

  1. What are your Inspirations?

Cole and I are both inspired by early 20th century art movements like abstract expressionism, for example Helen Frankenthaller and Hans Hoffman. We also are inspired by the Suprematist movement Lissitzky and Malevich – both in the spirit of revolution and the work that accompanies it. Along with the Bauhaus movement and modern design movement, Josef and Anni Albers and Charles and Ray Eames. I believe that the core of our design philosophy is heavily influenced by those movements.

Beyond that, I often draw inspiration from Science Fiction. I’m endlessly fascinated by our natural world and space as an extension of it. Lately I’ve read nearly all of Octavia Butler’s books, Hyperion from Dan Simmons, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. The recent news of a new map being designed similar to the Voyager Golden Record using pulsar stars as guideposts for the galaxy and Penrose’s new theory about the big bang are just a few of many fascinating and inspiring space developments.
I’m always checking out books from the library (pre-covid!) and learning new techniques or researching historical textiles/fibers/etc. I love researching the American arts and craft and textile manufacturing processes of earlier eras. Cole and I both grew up on farms in Central California and are the descendants of Dust Bowl migrants (think Grapes of Wrath) and I’m  inspired by the do-it-yourself and inherently sustainable nature of the textiles from that era. Nothing went to waste and people problem solved as they went along, I like to think both Cole and I both draw on that spirit when designing and making.

  1. Lets chat about social media- a hindrance or help?

Social Media is a huge help. Marketing is the part of this business that I’m newest to and having a tool like instagram has been a huge help in getting the word out about Ugly Rugly! I think it works best if we don’t take it too seriously and just use it as a tool for sharing. I try not to get too wrapped up in engagement or how many likes we get. I’m happiest when we keep things authentic and sometimes that means ignoring the algorithm!

  1.  Where would you like your business to be in a few years and do you have any advice?

In the near future we want to begin expanding into new products categories and trying out some different mediums and methods of construction for rugs, and ultimately to move into using more recycled materials if possible. I used to teach sewing and that’s something I would like to continue doing in the future. Ultimately, we would like Ugly Rugly to expand into a workshop storefront. I would love to have a space where we can showcase our work and our friend’s work, teach classes, take on production jobs, and have a design studio. I envision it as an equitable space where people openly share skills and talk about ways to bring their ideas to life.

5. Who are your favourite small businesses or creatives doing interesting things?

There are so many friends doing amazing projects! You’ve already interviewed our bud Marissa of Off Beat Sweet but some other faves are:

@myfawnwy  – does amazing stuff with marbling
@bodylanguageshop – plant hangers
@Chunksshop – makes the coolest hair clips
@travissswinford – making clocks and blobby tables@rosegreenberg – wacky pillows
@shopberriez – best vintage