Women in Business: The Alternative Folk

Women in Business: The Alternative Folk

Today we are meeting Alexandria (Alex) Friesen who paints and creates out of her beautiful old home in Grimshaw, AB.

When I asked Alex to tell me about her self she said,
"Firstly, I'm a mom, wife and home keeper, but any spare minute I have I'm sketching out something that makes me feel things or experimenting with paints and brushes. I've decided that line/wash and the looseness of watercolor really translates my emotions to paper the best!

I was homeschooled growing up, (I know, I know, 'but I seem so normal') back when it wasn't very cool or popular to do so. I give all credit to my very hardworking single mom, who encouraged a creative and imaginative childhood for us children. She was, and still is, my biggest fan! 

We would sit at the kitchen table most mornings/afternoons and she would read as my three younger brothers and I colored, painted, or created. It was normal to always have a project or 12 on the go. 

My kitchen table looks quite similar to the one I grew up with!"

Alex has been a long time customer of Autumn Jade Studio, but it wasn't until earlier this year that I realized Alex also had her own creative business!

Without further ado, let's get into the interview!

What was your introduction to art?

I've always had a pretty good eye for design but just didn't know what to do with it. From a young age I dabbled with florals, interior design, landscaping, gardening, fabric dying, graphic design, sketching and painting. I could make basically anything I put my mind to, but I never knew what to call my passion.

My grandparents moved off their farm in 2015. In the packing process my grandma found a very old set of studio watercolors. She gave them to me, but wasn't sure if they were any good. They were!! And it's still the set I'm using today. The instant I opened a tube of pigment and let it loose in a little puddle of water on my paper.... I was hooked!

Who are your favourite artists?

Goodness. My favorite artists? Well, I have to start with my grandma on my dad's side. She had the gift of making every little nothing into something. Her house was old and thrown together, but her walls were covered in beautiful patterned fabrics and adorned with her breathtaking oil paintings.

Beatrix Potter is someone I've always admired. You can tell she felt magic in her everyday life and I'm enthralled by how she was able to extract it and put it to words and sketches.

These days, I've been loving the work of Paul Evens. You can find him on Instagram. Something about his intense layering of paint and contrasting colors has me so captured.

How would you describe your art style?

I would describe my art style as scribbly and slightly chaotic but somehow able to convey a message or emotion. I have a soft spot for nostalgia, and so my very favorite work feels like something I experienced when I was little. Or maybe a dream, or a dream within a dream. Like something I can't quite place but feels familiar.

Do you have any memorable moments or struggles from when you were starting out that helped you become the artist you are today?

Two big struggles and lessons I'm still learning would be:

  1. People pleasing. Painting what other people want to see vs what I want to paint. There have definitely been weeks where I didn't really eat or sleep because I got so consumed with custom orders. I would get stuck in ruts of making trash art because I was trying to take on a new style for the sake of a commission piece. I now choose very carefully which commissions I will except. And I have a chat with myself about how I'm the artist, I'm painting it from my own perspective, not how I think the other person would like to see it.
  2. For years I didn't consider myself an artist because I can't do realism, but I'm starting to understand that that is a block many artists get stuck at. We have to push past and leave that stuff for the people who have the gift! Stay in your lane! There is nobody else on this earth who can translate a thought or emotion to paper the way you can. Some people will appreciate the way you see the world so much that they will pay to see and keep it, and that's the coolest thing ever.

What was the turning point that you began/decided to start selling your art?

I have an incredibly kind and supportive friend who popped by for coffee one day as I was finishing up a painting for a baby gift. She encouraged me to make prints of it. She insisted (and still insists, when I need a boost) that I was good enough to sell my art. I'm so grateful for her consistent encouragement during my years of trial and error! Get you a friend like this.

If you can still remember, how did you sell your very first piece?

My first sale? I guess I've been giving away my art for years and selling it to friends and family for a while now, so I can't remember my first. But I did have a few paintings on display at The Krooked House pub, here in Grimshaw, and they all sold within a week or two of them going up! I was even paid double my asking price for one! I was absolutely shocked. Like, tingly all over!
I'll never forget it.

Is there a story behind your business name?

I started to create under the name The Alternative Folk in 2017. I was recently married with a new-to-me last name. I needed a new signature to sign my art with, so I chose something that matched my new initials, AF. They also happen to be my husband's initials! He is also extremely creative and so I knew if we ever embarked on a business venture together, we could mark our stuff 'AF' across the board!

What is your process like?

My process is pretty unorganized. I'm finding I really have to seize the moment, make time as soon as possible and get the idea out. Often, when I actually 'have time'... the idea seems less interesting and I can't be properly passionate about it.
Creativity flows best in the mornings for me. I'm always inspired by light that is coming or going. Evening can work too if I'm not too spent from the day.
I have a few painting playlists and podcasts that I work well to.
I used to start with a quick sketch and then hope to transfer to nicer paper with more intention for the good copy. But so often I fall in love with the scribbly rough copy and then just have to commit to painting it! I now scribble on the good paper right away, just in case!

What/where do you draw inspiration from?

I find such inspiration in old buildings and farmhouses. The stories that an old yard can tell without any words! I adore old architecture and the colors that people used to choose for both their inside and outside walls. And their out buildings! Happy little barns, sheds and outhouses. Our houses are so bland today.
I'm also inspired by colors that contrast. I love the rich contrasting primary colors and patterns in old circus sets and vintage children's books.

Do you have any message you would like to say to other women in business or women who are thinking about starting their own business?

My very wise advice to women in business? That work/life balance is a myth, haha. Or it has been in my case!
Women are often the keepers of the home. They also build the babies. These are jobs that come with so many fine print tasks that need to be repeated daily for all of eternity.

Working full or part time on top of this equals a very full and busy life, and I don't think there's a blueprint of how to perfectly do both simultaneously. I haven't found one yet!

I value my relationship with my husband and take my job as Mamma to our children very seriously. They get the best of me and come before my creative pursuits or business ventures, and I won't apologize for it! There will be seasons (days/months/years) where I don't paint, but it'll always come back; I think it's important that I name those seasons and live in them fully, without regrets.

You can find The Alternative Folk online on Instagram and of course their website The Alternative Folk.


If you know of a business you think we should feature leave us a comment with the business name.

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1 comment

What a fabulous article 💛 Alex you are multi-faceted in your ability to embrace all aspects of life! Your creativity is inspiring!


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