Alexandra Ferguson lives in New York with her little cat named Jasper, who is covered mostly in downy, soft under-fur and has long handsome legs. She includes her upstairs friend, Catrina, and her 1-year-old daughter, Hannah, as her family and they eat dinner together more than they don’t. Alexandra describes herself as a workaholic who loves to drive with the top down on the west side in the summer, go on dinner dates with her boyfriend, and have a strong cup of coffee in the morning and a good cup of wine in the evening. She no longer sews in her pajamas and has graduated to a nice pair of sweatpants, which she likes to pair with a cashmere sweater so she can feel and look smart. And depending on her mood, she’ll be listening to either cheesy pop or melancholy folk music while she works.
Do you work at home?
I live in a loft apartment that used to be a department store. It has soaring 16 foot ceilings, which makes such a huge difference. I’ll go to someone else’s apartment that is the same square footage with regular height ceilings and I can’t believe how much smaller it feels. I have the original hard wood floors from the department store days and exposed concrete beam ceilings which gives it a gritty look, but then a modern kitchen and a marble bath which makes it comfortable. It’s a great backdrop inspiration for my work.
My place is a 1/2 mile away from my mom’s where I grew up in lower Westchester. When I was 6, we lived in France for a year, but beyond that I have always lived in NY. I even went to college in the city. Sometimes I wish I could be a bit more nomadic, but if you have spent your life moving within a 30 mile radius, you start to give up on the fantasy of picking up and moving to LA. This is where I belong.
How long have you been creating pillows? How did you get started?
I started making pillows as a gift for Catrina’s birthday this past November. Since Christmas was around the corner, I kept going and everyone got pillows for the holidays. Then I was done with my annual crafting. For about a week. Then Catrina’s sister, Kim, came round and saw the original pillows I made for her and told me about Etsy. The shop went live in the middle of January. And it has been a whirlwind since.
Do you sew other items?
I am game to sew anything so long as it is for the home. I am looking to expand the line into tote bags and pouches too. My project for just this morning actually is to make wall art, which will be the same thing as making a pillow but then we will staple it around a canvas frame instead of set a zipper. I’m really excited. I will not sew clothes.
Tell us about your daytime job.
My career has been in the fashion industry as a technical designer and as a studio manager. I worked for Rebecca Taylor and Zac Posen, and now I am freelancing a couple of days a week for a Kohl’s licensee company. It’s great because I have now worked on lines from the Wal-mart level right up to designer couture. A lot of my experiences working for these houses has been really useful as I start my own line. If you can develop and manufacture a dress, you can certainly do it for a pillow. Fashion is a really intense industry. This past February was the first season in a long long time that I wasn’t putting on a runway show. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to walk past the tents and Bryant Park and not be overcome with dread and exhaustion. But now I work 7 days a week until 2 am for my own line, so I am back on runway schedule again. But it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when you are working for yourself.
Where do you get your materials?
I get everything online. It is so much cheaper, and it saves trips around town.
How much of your materials are recycled? Why do you use them?
The felt that I use is 100% recycled from post-consumer water bottles. There is a neat show about it from the history channel. You can
It is such a great material to work with. The quality of the felt is really good and surprisingly soft. It is a great added bonus that it happens to be totally eco-friendly to boot.
I am doing research now to find an eco-friendly pillow insert too. For now I want to make my work accessible and affordable to most people so I use a polyfill insert, but I would like to offer the option of an eco insert too.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! I have to keep long lists because I can’t sew fast enough. I have some beautiful photography books of flowers that I like to reference sometimes, and always keep an ear out for song lyrics that might be funny on a pillow. Friends help out too. Its a good lunch time game with your colleagues–what would you put on a pillow?
Do you do other kinds of crafts? How long have you been making jewelry?
I made jewelry a couple of years ago and if Etsy had been around then who knows what path my life would have taken! I had no selling outlet at the time, so I made as much as I could until I was broke and then I got a job. I feel like the jewelry market right now is pretty saturated though, so once I sell through my current inventory I think I will call it a day.
One hobby that I have had since I was a tot was painting. Right now I am into acrylics. I have been working on a 15 foot mural in my kitchen for about 2 years. It’s a rolling kaleidescope landscape populated with little fantasy creatures. It’s great because it will never be done, I can always move someone else in. I have also done portraits of Jasper and my fish George, and my mom’s dog Hugo. I’m really into Egrets as well, there are a couple of those around the house. I am running out of wall space. Good thing I took a break to make pillows. But now that I am going to hang the pillow designs on the wall? Back to square one.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
Running my company! Maybe when the company grows and I can afford employees, I can work less than 90 hours a week. But I am starting to doubt that I will be able to stop.