In this episode I chat with one of the most naturally gifted people I know,Alexa Mitchell.
Alexa’s helping out with Makers & Doers as a Faculty Member at the moment, meaning they help curate lesson plans and curriculum.
Connect with Alexa on
Makers & Doers School
This transcript was created using the awesome, Descript. It may contain minor errors.
Note: This is an affiliate link, where This is HCD make a small commission if you sign up a Descript account.
[00:00:00] Gerry Scullion: Good evening. How are
[00:00:13] Alexa Mitchell: very.
[00:00:19] Gerry Scullion: So welcome to the Makers and Doers podcast, the podcast behind the new business that I've been working on for the last few months, which has been pretty exciting, but it's also pretty scary at the same time. Truth be told now, I am the founder of the Makers and Doers School, Jerry Scalian, and I'm working towards a launch in the next couple of months.
[00:00:38] Gerry Scullion: All things going well. I am still in the hunt for a venue in and around plantar and Dublin and Ireland where I live, and I wanna test some of the program out and would love to have this sorted the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned here in the podcast folks for all these kind of updates. In this episode, iChat with one of the most naturally gifted people I know.
[00:00:57] Gerry Scullion: Alexis Mitchell, [00:01:00] Alexis, helping out with the Makers and Doers School as a faculty member at the moment. Meaning that they're helping curate lesson plans and the curriculum. And the funny thing is I've known Alexis since she was 11 years old, and her mom, Maray, truthfully, is really, she's the reason I became a designer.
[00:01:18] Gerry Scullion: Her help when I was an. Fifth year in school was integral for me to getting a place in n c in Ireland, where I studied industrial design. And you're gonna hear from in the coming weeks too, cuz Maade is an integral part of the makers and doers school. So in this episode we chat about the broadest of topics.
[00:01:35] Gerry Scullion: What is art and what is design and how Alexa is guiding her three children, ages four and a half. And two and two. Yes, that's right. She has twins. She looked. So I chat to her about how she's guiding the children on their own journeys in the art and design worlds whilst at home. We also touch on why we believe art and design is so important for health reasons, for the young minds [00:02:00] and the life skills that it gives them as well.
[00:02:01] Gerry Scullion: So let's jump in.
[00:02:03] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah. So, uh, uh, nice to, nice to be talking to you.
[00:02:06] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, nice to be talking to you. Are the kids in bed? Alexa?
[00:02:11] Alexa Mitchell: The, the kids are in bed and actually Shane is supervising the, um, the final hurdle of trying to get the twins to slide down and sleep, uh, uh, in their,
[00:02:22] Gerry Scullion: I think it's easy grownup bed.
[00:02:24] Gerry Scullion: I think it's easier to land a 7, 4 7 than it is to put kids to bed.
[00:02:28] Alexa Mitchell: I think so. Yeah, I think you're right. I think you're right. But, um, I'm, I'm soothing, I'm soothing myself with, uh, some bubbles, so I'm fine. Oh, nice. Nice. I'm having a night off. A
[00:02:39] Gerry Scullion: night off. Self, self-medicating . Um, Alexa, how I know you studied, um, it, was it textile design?
[00:02:48] Gerry Scullion: Um, was
[00:02:49] Alexa Mitchell: it Yeah, I studi, I studi
[00:02:50] Gerry Scullion: textile design. Yep. In N C D, uh, when did you finish?
[00:02:55] Alexa Mitchell: Oh God. What a question. Um, I think I, graduat finished, graduated in. [00:03:00] Oh, yeah, yeah. Well over, um, I think I graduated, it must been 2006, I think it was 2006.
[00:03:06] Gerry Scullion: Ok. Couple years after
[00:03:07] Alexa Mitchell: me. Seven. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A few, a few years. But not, not that, not that much.
[00:03:12] Alexa Mitchell: Uh, not after you, it was more, um, it's just thinking that new 20 years ago, it's a bit of
[00:03:18] Gerry Scullion: a shock, you know, . Yeah. I'm at the 20 year mark. How would you describe what art. . I, it's a big question.
[00:03:25] Alexa Mitchell: I a big question. Yeah. It's a big question. I, I feel that art is something that stops you in your track, uh, and speaks to you, and that it doesn't necessarily have to be imagery.
[00:03:42] Alexa Mitchell: Um, I feel like it's, yeah, something that sticks you personally. Um, and it could. . Yes. The obvious thing is, uh, an image and, um, photography or, or, you know, the traditional mediums of art, like, uh, painting or, or demonstration. Mm-hmm. . But I also think it can be [00:04:00] how, how, how a chair feels underneath you or, or, um, how somebody has arranged planting in a garden.
[00:04:10] Alexa Mitchell: Um, or how. How a car feels to drive. Um, I think it can be, um, anything that, that speaks to you. Um, and sometimes that's a, a negative thing and people want to revoke conversation through their creativity. Mm-hmm. , um, , but I, I, I think generally it's a positive thing and it makes you feel, it makes it generates a response in you personally.
[00:04:34] Alexa Mitchell: Okay. Um, yeah. Yeah.
[00:04:36] Gerry Scullion: So some of those things that you, you spoke about, you know, about how, what the car feels like to when the chair feels like when you sit in it. The next question is really what is design? Because I would consider some of those elements to be closer to the, the design side of things. You know, we, we both went to the same university and we both what would fall into art school.[00:05:00]
[00:05:00] Gerry Scullion: Um, but yes. Mm-hmm. , we studied design, so, um mm-hmm. for people listening to this and the Makers and Doers podcast mm-hmm. , they'd probably be like, is art design and is design art? Um, how, how, so how would you describe then the flip side of what is design?
[00:05:16] Alexa Mitchell: I, I feel that design is, , um, more about purpose, uh, and it's more about, um, creating something or, or using something in a, in a more purposeful way rather than just the, the joy of it.
[00:05:39] Alexa Mitchell: But there is a huge amount of overlap, I think is a, well, for want of a better word, a spectrum between art and design and is inevit flow. Um, but I feel that that. It's, it's less about the, the, um, . It's not even less about visual, but there is, with design, it's [00:06:00] definitely more specific and, uh, to make life better or more, more pleasurable or, uh, to evoke, uh, easier use.
[00:06:11] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah. Um, and if that, If that is beautiful, it's to answer some sort of question, it's to answer, uh, some sort of, uh, uh, difficulty that's encountered and to make that better. And, uh, and when it comes to art, there's that art element to make it attractive to the, to the person. And different people find different things
[00:06:33] Gerry Scullion: attractive.
[00:06:34] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So sort of in, in. design school. I did industrial design, so mm-hmm. , most of it was the design of the physical things. But over, once I finished, I started getting into the more the digital world and interaction design. Mm-hmm. and user experience, design and service design. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. And design for me was always about the function.
[00:06:56] Gerry Scullion: Um, and Design always had a [00:07:00] business. So if you're looking at a Venn diagram, there was. Typically technology was woven into design. Business was woven into design and art was, yeah, was kind of like excluded from the conversation. It was not like the artists are over there, you know, coming up with something that was full of expression, whereas that was mm-hmm.
[00:07:18] Gerry Scullion: it tends to have been omitted from. The design, uh, conversation, which is not necessarily fair because I see des art as being an integral part of design. And it's kind of like a, an iterative process to feed the, feed the creativity, feed the, the kind of the fire for design to be successful.
[00:07:38] Alexa Mitchell: Well, I think, I think it is, uh, the awareness of, um, the, the.
[00:07:48] Alexa Mitchell: Uh, yeah, again, the spectrum of design is, uh, growing. I think there is education as the world has opened up with. The internet and with accessibility [00:08:00] and with news. Yeah. Um, and travel. I feel that people are becoming far more aware and they're either being open to what, what they could have. Um, and for example, like with the Apple, um, Steve's jobs said that if he wanted to lick the product, if he wanted to eat it, and to it, it was beautiful.
[00:08:21] Alexa Mitchell: And he, he needed to have that physical desire to have it within him. Yeah. Um, and um, . I, I think looking around people are far more conscious. Even things like, uh, you know, the, the house programs and the garden design programs, um, there is a renewed. Appreciation, uh, there is more or less available, uh, certainly, um, uh, from when I was growing up and you'd see even British magazines of interiors or they, they'd delve into product design.
[00:08:52] Alexa Mitchell: Um, the grand designs. Yeah, you can access that in a way, uh, that you couldn't before. Um, [00:09:00] and yes, it may be sitting on a computer coming across the seven Cs for, you know, a couple of months, but the point is you can get it if you want it, and you're willing to pay the customs. So, um, I think accessibility has opened the appreciation.
[00:09:12] Alexa Mitchell: Yes. There's a lot to do with the education and around it. Yeah. Uh, the possibilities. Um, I feel that, I feel that when it comes to. Building your personal project in design, um, Ireland in its nature by population, um, and being essentially, uh, uh, surrounded by water. Mm-hmm. , uh, it's not as, I suppose, uh, accessible to put together or to, um, , see your ideas, uh, promptly.
[00:09:48] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah. I think there's, there's a greater amount of work, um, attached to it because you have to source and, um, find appropriate places and, and then cost comes into that. Cause we we're, yeah, by water as they say. Um, [00:10:00] but I do feel there's, there's a new dep appreciation and an awareness and people are much more, much more, uh, in tune with what they, what they like themselves.
[00:10:11] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah. Um, yeah. Um, and. , uh, with our busy lifestyles and also people working from home after Covid, I think people appreciate things that work well. Yeah. Um, uh, and there's, uh, people, especially with when it comes financial, the finances of things, um, you want something that's gonna do a job really well and really properly within your budget.
[00:10:35] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah. Um, yeah. And why not have it as a. An attractive thing in your mind as well, or in your eye as well? Sure.
[00:10:43] Gerry Scullion: So someone made a point to me the other day that over the last 50 years we've been looking to Britain as being the place where we would source design excellence. But since Brexit, it's kind of built the wall a little bit higher, and now we're forced to go into mainland [00:11:00] Europe where there's mm-hmm.
[00:11:01] Gerry Scullion: a huge array. Other types of, and all types of design. So there's a greater arrange kind of forcing us to, to look beyond the, the British sphere, which Yep. Can only be a good thing, I guess. Like, you know, if we're exposed to more different types of design, like other businesses that sell, um, furniture that are German made or Swedish maid or whatever it is.
[00:11:23] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. , certainly. Mm-hmm. . So, um, yeah, certainly Alexa, well, we were chatting there, the other. and you've got, um, a beautiful four and a half year old. Is is your daughter? Four and a half? Four half, four and a half. Four and a half, yeah. Four and a half. And, um, I remember Mar, who's also gonna be a appearing on the podcast soon, folks, um, Marade was telling me that your daughter can now, uh, sew.
[00:11:47] Gerry Scullion: Is that right?
[00:11:49] Alexa Mitchell: And yeah, I have been, I've been teaching her hand embroidery.
[00:11:52] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. I'm really keen to tap into designers that I know who have [00:12:00] kids and what they're doing at home to introduce them to, I guess, art and design because I'm doing something similar with with my children as well, and I know any of my other designer friends who've got kids.
[00:12:13] Gerry Scullion: They, they can't help themselves, but look at those little young minds as being experimental, feeding grounds for testing and how to get them to follow in our footsteps possibly, but mm-hmm. , what's the nature of, um, introducing your daughter at such a young age to, to knitting? What are the benefits of this, do you think?
[00:12:38] Alexa Mitchell: Um, well, certainly, uh, One of the, the, the primary reason I started it was to spend time with her. Yeah. Um, the, uh, she, I mean, she sees me sewing and making all the time because I'm, I'm constantly, the need to, to do something, uh, with [00:13:00] my hands in, in that way, in that creative, visual, um, mm-hmm. way, just overflows.
[00:13:05] Alexa Mitchell: I, I just always something. So whether it's, um, you know, decorating the house with the seasons or, you know, decide, deciding on where to plant certain plants and the colors and the textures. Um, and even, I mean, right now I'm sitting in front of the sewing machine and then making the girls, uh, summer, summer dresses.
[00:13:21] Alexa Mitchell: Um, so there's just a, there's a need for me to, to constantly do something. . And with her, I wanted to spend time with her. I wanted to spend one-on-one time with her because I have, uh, this two year old twins and they've just turned two. So I'm extremely conscious of making sure that the time I spend with her is, um, one-on-one time where.
[00:13:47] Alexa Mitchell: we have that mindfulness. I'm teaching her something she's willing to learn. I i'll when it comes to the embroidery and the threads and things like that, I'll let her select her colors. I have an array of colors. It's generally pink and [00:14:00] purple, you know. So, um, but she, she, primary thing to get her to do, to begin with was to learn how to maintain the thread in the.
[00:14:12] Alexa Mitchell: Hmm. And literally just get her used to the movement and the feeling of the thread, and when a thread was running out and it was in and outta the fabric. So I got her an embroidery hoop, I got her a vodka needle, and I have very thick embroidery thread. Okay? And in a strong, in a strong color. Um, and the fabric I have is, is super soft.
[00:14:29] Alexa Mitchell: And what I did was I didn't do any drawing on it or anything like that. I just let her feel the movement up and down. And she, she created in her mind a house. Um, and this is what she saw with her creation. Wow. Um, and it was just to get her, just to get used to the movement. And then she started to want to do more complex things.
[00:14:48] Alexa Mitchell: Things that maybe she kind of were. Two contacts. Mm-hmm. . Um, so I drew, uh, with Halloween, she wanted to do a witch and I drew a witch and we were trying to do different colors in the different parts of the witch, and she would follow the outline as best she [00:15:00] could. Um, and again, it's that dexterity, it's that quiet, it's that time stand together.
[00:15:07] Alexa Mitchell: Um, and it's that confidence because it's wonderful about seeing. The embroidery thread is you can really see your progress. Yeah. And you can see what you have done or have not done. But it's also a really good way, if you make a mistake, you just unpick that thread. Yeah. And you can, you can go again and there's no consequences.
[00:15:25] Alexa Mitchell: There's no hangups. You can just keep going. And, uh, it's that learning, that mistake is okay. Mm-hmm. , um, and that there's, there's more trail, there's more fabric. We can go back, we can fix it, you know, so, um, . Yeah. It, it was that, that confidence building thing in her, but also that, that relationship building thing I wanted to do with her as well.
[00:15:48] Alexa Mitchell: Um, so, um, that was really important to me. And she, she enjoys it. And sometimes, sometimes she, she will be holding the thread or she'll be holding the needle and she may not even do anything. She just wants to sit there [00:16:00] and we have a chat about whatever it might be. Oh. Um, but also more recently, um, I've been a shop and I.
[00:16:06] Alexa Mitchell: little, um, uh, paper shapes that were perforated, um, and ideal for learning how to sew. So I bought some of those for her as well. And we, we take those out every so often. And what's nice about those is they are held in the hand rather than being restricted by the hoop shape. Mm-hmm. . Um, and again, they're very decorative, so these just happen to be Christmas decoration shapes, and she was able to create little patterns on the existence, decorations, so, , she, and then she's able to hang them on the tree and she creates something and she can celebrate it.
[00:16:36] Alexa Mitchell: They're welcome and Yeah. Yeah. But, but there's also that it, it's very calming. Yeah. Um, now, now there are moments, there are moments of frustration and we have to say, why don't we take a break and, and, and try this again tomorrow because, you know, she's enjoying this. It's just that she's frustrated with her.
[00:16:53] Alexa Mitchell: Um, limitations that stage of progress. Yeah. Um, and it is that kind of just that [00:17:00] slow development and giving it time. And she's a child and she started when she was. She knows about four. Um, and it's learning that dexterity. Um, but I enjoy her interest Yeah. As well. And really she wants to spend time with me.
[00:17:17] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah. Uh, so, uh, but it's a life skill, you know? Fix, fix a button. . Absolutely. But more than, more than that. knowing you haven't done something before and not being afraid to give it a go. Yeah.
[00:17:31] Gerry Scullion: Uh, yeah. It's, it's, it's an amazing, um, skill to have. It's something that I learned in the Boy Scouts and I sometimes I'm forced to do it myself.
[00:17:41] Gerry Scullion: Um. Mm-hmm. , I don't have too many buttons on my clothes anymore, thankfully. I just wear t-shirts all the time. , . Um, but in terms of o other creative outlets, um, where would your daughter be in terms of like, what, what other things are they exposed to on a day-to-day [00:18:00] basis in your house and what, what do, what are the things to
[00:18:03] Alexa Mitchell: encourage.
[00:18:05] Alexa Mitchell: uh, I encourage a lot of play with Lego. Mm-hmm. , um, a lot of play with Lego because again, there's no consequences If something breaks, it could be rebuilt. Yeah. And so there's a huge, um, reward in that, particularly, you know, younger brother or sister comes along and it smashes. So there's um, Uh, there's a huge award, but also the limitations of Lego, I feel are, are limitless.
[00:18:26] Alexa Mitchell: You can, wherever your imagination will take you, it, it, it, you can, you know, build it. And certainly the, um, the boxes of the mixed blocks have been, uh, liberating because yes, we have instructions and it's nice to create something final and something that you deliberately purchased or was given to you. , uh, the real joy comes from creating something and nothing.
[00:18:48] Alexa Mitchell: Um, and certainly my son, who is two and three months, four months now, uh, enjoys a two and requests to play Lego with the small pieces. Uh, he wants to make things, um, to, so that's, that's [00:19:00] a, that's a primary thing with us. Another thing is, um, uh, creative place. So, uh, my el. Yeah. And of course my, my, my daughter, my, my second daughter, uh, is really enthusiastic about that as well.
[00:19:14] Alexa Mitchell: So we have a lot of music in our house. Uh, no piano yet, but it's on the cards. Yeah. Uh, we have a lot of music in the house and they leap around and they dress up in all sorts of things. And it could be a towel wrapped around their shoulders and they're playing, uh, witches or wizards or something like that, and they're dancing to, um, anything from.
[00:19:33] Alexa Mitchell: Taylor, swift, Togar, Greek, it could be anything, so, right. Um, uh, it's what whatever they're exposed to at the time. Um, and certainly with dancing, a lot of music can be classical. Yeah. Um, and I think that that's, that's very good for them because their associations then, when they hear it on the radio in the background of an ad, it's amazing what they remember and where they pick things up.
[00:19:57] Alexa Mitchell: Um, and [00:20:00] my children are the sort of children that, you know, sit in the shopping trolley in the supermarket and jump around to whatever music is playing in the background. So, um, culturally, I think yeah, the, the, the playfulness, the, the fancy dress, the, um, Creating tent, creating, um, dens, um, little hidden environments.
[00:20:21] Alexa Mitchell: Um, it could be the Plain Cafe. Uh, and they're, they're reenacting, uh, experiences that they witness, uh, in day to day life, but also maybe things that they've read in a story or scene on television. Yeah. So, uh, but it's, it's, it's enabling that in, in a very playful way, um, uh, and facilitating that, but, . Those are things like trying to, trying to keep it simple, not trying to overload them with too many things and stuff that does too much for them.
[00:20:50] Alexa Mitchell: Yeah, I, I prefer toys where they have to use their imagination and have to create something at nothing I find done for them.[00:21:00]
[00:21:02] Alexa Mitchell: It's, it's a personal preference, but I feel that it's something they've already done for them. Uh, it doesn't challenge them. Yeah. Um, so
[00:21:09] Gerry Scullion: that's, the phone is in the journey? Yeah.
[00:21:11] Alexa Mitchell: Mm. Yeah. I mean, it's good for them to kind of, you know, if they have a straw to pretend it's a microphone or to, you know, make it a wand or, you know, make it an eye like a telescope.
[00:21:24] Alexa Mitchell: I, I think it's important that they. Being
[00:21:28] Gerry Scullion: open in that way. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, look, Alexa, you're gonna be popping in and out on the podcast. So, um, this is really just, it's episode one, so you've kind of popped the cherry of, uh, episode one for Makers and Tours podcast. Um, so we'll, we'll catch up with you again, uh, probably in another couple of weeks.
[00:21:47] Gerry Scullion: Have a good evening and enjoy the, uh, the bottle of wine with the straw on it.
[00:21:51] Alexa Mitchell: I, I will, my microphone.[00:22:00]
We provide remote, flexible training options to help you grow your design and innovation capabilities. We also offer bespoke training programmes for teams and organisations on any of our courses.View all courses