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Alison Kent

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Growing up, we ended up moving every two years to new schools in new Canadian cities, but the one thing that seemed to remain constant were the art lessons I took throughout. The creative outlets and confidence in being good in at least one thing as a kid— creating, along with consistency—were key to keeping me sane. My childhood experiences also made me adaptable to the “new,” and to regularly look for opportunity no matter where I was, likely instilling a bit of wanderlust as well!

From early on, creating objects aligned naturally with my being, as it permitted curiosity and fostered problem solving. Starting in my pre-teen years, I created hand-made greeting cards and sold them door-to-door. I personally had a need and didn’t want cards that were “cookie-cutter”. Creating came freely to me, hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship. I found myself also designing and making my own clothes because everything I saw in stores bored me. I even created a new light fixture for someone because I couldn’t find just the right piece with the ideal functionality and form.

Alison Kent Portrait

To me, designs simply start off with a need for something. Recently, a friend asked to see my old wedding album, and I realized as I viewed the photos of myself and my bridesmaids wearing the dresses and jewelry I designed that I’m simply naturally geared to jump in and make things myself when I want something unique. My need and desire to MAKE is deep-rooted, and in late 2017, with all of my experiences and various paths of discovery, I recognized that I was ready to finally start designing, making and marketing for sale my own lines of homewares—Alison Kent HOME (ak HOME) was born!

My creative space today is a reflection of a lifetime of passions and of what inspires me. An old carport we weren’t using has been filled in with siding, along with added windows and furniture found at vintage malls, Craigslist and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore shops. Inside is a giant mix of treasures— some new, some antiques, some found items from travels and of course, some akHOME pieces. The space is both a reflection of and an inspiration for my ongoing design journey.

And, while having a house with many of my own akHOME products on display can sound narcissistic on the surface, it’s really just fulfilling my dream to have a space with hand-crafted, meaningful, useful, functional pieces that flow with my vintage vibes, filling needs that I can’t otherwise find solutions for. If I can’t find them, I will make them!

I will be the first to admit my journey to starting Alison Kent HOME has been circuitous, to say the least! Having either trained and/or worked in art, fashion, textile design, architecture, interior design—and now, product design, while also seriously dabbling in cooking and the art of entertaining—the path of discovery has finally led me to something I truly love to do, which respects and embraces everything that came before it.

“Not all who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

Business advisors have cautioned me to focus on ONE product, do it well, make a name for yourself, and THEN, to add things that your long list of followers will automatically embrace. But, I’ve never been good at a) doing what I’m told, and b) focusing on any one thing—ever. While I fully see the validity to a proper business model approach, and sometimes I wonder if I should heed it, I’m quite content, for now, going where my creative fl ow takes me and exploring this new world of materials and design as I start down this path of product design.

At akHOME, I’ve been exploring a world at the intersection of art and product, inspired by the beauty of everyday living. Every new piece is an opportunity to enter the worlds of each artisan I partner within manufacturing. In choosing to work with a variety of artisans, however, manufacturing is a big challenge, as it means small production, longer lead times and higher costs-in. But, I love how much more special those things make each and every piece become. This talented community and how passionate they each are about their craft continuously excites me—it’s beautifully infectious! As a vintage collector, and as an evolving human, I’ve developed a love for the “perfectly imperfect” and the stories they tell. Each imperfection reflects the uniqueness and individuality of each item, and I try to bring that into these collaborations with this curated group of manufacturing partners. It’s also an intentional move away from the perfectness of mass-produced product that is so readily available.

 

Alison Kent DesignAs I work on every product with a different artisan craftsman, I’m in a constant learning-loop. I love collaborating with passionate people, and collaborating at the artist-artisan level. I typically have about eight projects at some point of development going on at once. A lot of my artwork incorporates calligraphic line work, and I think that encapsulates my style well, with emotion, expression, focus, freedom and beauty.

I find inspiration for my work surrounding me, everywhere! Recently, on a trip to Paris, I was sick with a head cold, so I sat in cafes most of the day sipping wine and sketching. By the end of one sit down, I designed an entire line of couture fashion based on the globe-lit canopy, the bistro chair, the cobbled street under my feet and the waiter’s bowtie.

If it belongs in a home, whether it’s fashion, home goods, bathroom tiles or light fixtures—you name it— I eventually will design it.

Right now, I’m crazy for laser-cut acrylic pieces! One of my favorites began as simple sketches of some herbs out of the garden, which I watercolored and just left for a few months, not yet knowing where the artwork might be used. Having spent many evenings hosting dinner parties and styling tables, I wanted placemats that were more soft and rounded than a rectangle, but with more space than a circle, so I ended up with a beautiful oval shape. And voila—I knew this was where the herb artwork needed to go! An unknowing guest affirmed my decision at a recent dinner party hosted by the local interior designer who had purchased the mats, deeming the oval as “the perfect shape” and complementing them for not being a boring rectangle shape, while still having space for cutlery—exactly what I was aiming for! It’s these type of comments that reveal an understanding of the relationship between design and function that I cherish the most, as it helps put to rest some of the fears of creating products that are not already out or simply, not yet popular in the existing marketplace.

Alison Kent akHom Acrylic Pieces

Having such fears, however, is valid. What if, while I often can’t find things in stores that excite or work for me, everyone else loves what they see already available on the chain store shelves? Will they perhaps not see a need or desire for what I make that’s, well, a bit different? I think any designer pushing the edges of what’s available will forever feel these insecurities, so I try to embrace them as simply a drive for doing the best design I can. It’s OK not to fit into a particular mold. I think if we go with our true passions, they will eventually lead us to great places—just not always in a straight line! And, that’s totally fine.

Growing up, we ended up moving every two years to new schools in new Canadian cities, but the one thing that seemed to remain constant were the art lessons I took throughout. The creative outlets and confidence in being good in at least one thing as a kid— creating, along with consistency—were key to keeping me sane. My childhood experiences also made me adaptable to the “new,” and to regularly look for opportunity no matter where I was, likely instilling a bit of wanderlust as well!

From early on, creating objects aligned naturally with my being, as it permitted curiosity and fostered problem solving. Starting in my pre-teen years, I created hand-made greeting cards and sold them door-to-door. I personally had a need and didn’t want cards that were “cookie-cutter”. Creating came freely to me, hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship. I found myself also designing and making my own clothes because everything I saw in stores bored me. I even created a new light fixture for someone because I couldn’t find just the right piece with the ideal functionality and form.

Alison Kent Portrait

To me, designs simply start off with a need for something. Recently, a friend asked to see my old wedding album, and I realized as I viewed the photos of myself and my bridesmaids wearing the dresses and jewelry I designed that I’m simply naturally geared to jump in and make things myself when I want something unique. My need and desire to MAKE is deep-rooted, and in late 2017, with all of my experiences and various paths of discovery, I recognized that I was ready to finally start designing, making and marketing for sale my own lines of homewares—Alison Kent HOME (ak HOME) was born!

My creative space today is a reflection of a lifetime of passions and of what inspires me. An old carport we weren’t using has been filled in with siding, along with added windows and furniture found at vintage malls, Craigslist and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore shops. Inside is a giant mix of treasures— some new, some antiques, some found items from travels and of course, some akHOME pieces. The space is both a reflection of and an inspiration for my ongoing design journey.

And, while having a house with many of my own akHOME products on display can sound narcissistic on the surface, it’s really just fulfilling my dream to have a space with hand-crafted, meaningful, useful, functional pieces that flow with my vintage vibes, filling needs that I can’t otherwise find solutions for. If I can’t find them, I will make them!

I will be the first to admit my journey to starting Alison Kent HOME has been circuitous, to say the least! Having either trained and/or worked in art, fashion, textile design, architecture, interior design—and now, product design, while also seriously dabbling in cooking and the art of entertaining—the path of discovery has finally led me to something I truly love to do, which respects and embraces everything that came before it.

“Not all who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

Business advisors have cautioned me to focus on ONE product, do it well, make a name for yourself, and THEN, to add things that your long list of followers will automatically embrace. But, I’ve never been good at a) doing what I’m told, and b) focusing on any one thing—ever. While I fully see the validity to a proper business model approach, and sometimes I wonder if I should heed it, I’m quite content, for now, going where my creative fl ow takes me and exploring this new world of materials and design as I start down this path of product design.

At akHOME, I’ve been exploring a world at the intersection of art and product, inspired by the beauty of everyday living. Every new piece is an opportunity to enter the worlds of each artisan I partner within manufacturing. In choosing to work with a variety of artisans, however, manufacturing is a big challenge, as it means small production, longer lead times and higher costs-in. But, I love how much more special those things make each and every piece become. This talented community and how passionate they each are about their craft continuously excites me—it’s beautifully infectious! As a vintage collector, and as an evolving human, I’ve developed a love for the “perfectly imperfect” and the stories they tell. Each imperfection reflects the uniqueness and individuality of each item, and I try to bring that into these collaborations with this curated group of manufacturing partners. It’s also an intentional move away from the perfectness of mass-produced product that is so readily available.

 

Alison Kent DesignAs I work on every product with a different artisan craftsman, I’m in a constant learning-loop. I love collaborating with passionate people, and collaborating at the artist-artisan level. I typically have about eight projects at some point of development going on at once. A lot of my artwork incorporates calligraphic line work, and I think that encapsulates my style well, with emotion, expression, focus, freedom and beauty.

I find inspiration for my work surrounding me, everywhere! Recently, on a trip to Paris, I was sick with a head cold, so I sat in cafes most of the day sipping wine and sketching. By the end of one sit down, I designed an entire line of couture fashion based on the globe-lit canopy, the bistro chair, the cobbled street under my feet and the waiter’s bowtie.

If it belongs in a home, whether it’s fashion, home goods, bathroom tiles or light fixtures—you name it— I eventually will design it.

Right now, I’m crazy for laser-cut acrylic pieces! One of my favorites began as simple sketches of some herbs out of the garden, which I watercolored and just left for a few months, not yet knowing where the artwork might be used. Having spent many evenings hosting dinner parties and styling tables, I wanted placemats that were more soft and rounded than a rectangle, but with more space than a circle, so I ended up with a beautiful oval shape. And voila—I knew this was where the herb artwork needed to go! An unknowing guest affirmed my decision at a recent dinner party hosted by the local interior designer who had purchased the mats, deeming the oval as “the perfect shape” and complementing them for not being a boring rectangle shape, while still having space for cutlery—exactly what I was aiming for! It’s these type of comments that reveal an understanding of the relationship between design and function that I cherish the most, as it helps put to rest some of the fears of creating products that are not already out or simply, not yet popular in the existing marketplace.

Alison Kent akHom Acrylic Pieces

Having such fears, however, is valid. What if, while I often can’t find things in stores that excite or work for me, everyone else loves what they see already available on the chain store shelves? Will they perhaps not see a need or desire for what I make that’s, well, a bit different? I think any designer pushing the edges of what’s available will forever feel these insecurities, so I try to embrace them as simply a drive for doing the best design I can. It’s OK not to fit into a particular mold. I think if we go with our true passions, they will eventually lead us to great places—just not always in a straight line! And, that’s totally fine.