Maker Alex Devol on how a local reservoir offers a welcome respite
Alex Devol, who creates handsome, thoughtful and functional products that tend to be in wood or woven, talks about finding peace near water, the need to embrace quiet, and how makers should be kinder to themselves…
A ‘hole-and-corner’ is an old English term meaning a secret place: somewhere you go to escape the world, to be inspired, to contemplate and create. Where is your ‘hole-and-corner’?
The Anglezarke Reservoir near my home in Lancashire, England.
Is it important to you to have somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of life?
Yes definitely, although I moved from the city to the countryside a few years ago thinking it would provide a more permanent escape I have actually just found that most of my hustle and bustle is internal now, it follows me around. When working for yourself finding a moment’s peace is more of a mental exercise than anything, just learning to take a break and dismiss the to do list even if just for an hour. I don’t seem to have improved at it despite years of practice.
What do you like to listen to when you’re working?
Usually I work in silence and just immerse myself in what I’m doing, but if there’s music on it will usually be Radio 6 Music, or some ‘60s Greenwich Village era folk stuff.
What elements do you think make a perfect ‘hole-and-corner’?
When I was really young I used to find it relaxing to sit under the wall mounted fan heater in the bathroom at my grandparent’s house, the warmth was nice but it was the white noise that I found most relaxing. Similarly today I always find being surrounded by subtle movement or ambient noise comforting, watching and listening to flowing water or a fire are favourites.
Is it private to you or do you let other people visit?
No I’m happy to share it and have taken plenty of friends there over the years.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
During my first design job I had to spend most of my time with the company owner, he told me “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got” It’s not true necessarily, but there’s an important truth within it.
Is reflection an important part of your work?
I find it’s unavoidable; I’ve always been very introspective and am usually extremely self-critical. I wouldn’t say that it’s to my own detriment because I believe that it’s mainly this dissatisfaction with my own output which has motivated me to improve throughout life, but it would be nice to occasionally look at my work without such a disparaging stance. I’ve found it reassuring to learn in recent years that a lot of designers share this self-criticism, and that in my opinion it is often the better ones, so hopefully by proxy that puts me in amongst them! I do often advise creative friends to occasionally look at their own work as if it weren’t their own though, imagine that perhaps a friend of theirs had shown it to them asking or feedback, it seems more natural when acting this out to look for the positives and just admire an object or piece of work, rather than putting it under the usual scrutiny to seek out flaws which need improving.