Swedish Iraqi designer and artist Sizar Alexis started out designing furniture for his own flat, enjoying the process so much that he decided to pursue this newfound passion. While training at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Alexis received praise for his degree project – a sculptural recycling bin in metal. Inspired by geometry and brutalist architecture, he currently works out of his home in the Swedish city of Eskilstuna, which he shares with wife Fairuz.
We dropped by for cardamom coffee and fresh fruit, and spoke with the up and coming designer about how his heritage influences his work, why he can’t settle on one type of material and what message he wants his design to carry.
Text and photography: Micha van Dinther
Most of your product, such as ’Anà’ and ’Itoo Raba’, bear names that stem from the Chaldean language. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil in northern Iraq. My family belongs to the minority population Chaldaeans, which is the native population of Mesopotamia and part of the Chaldean Catholic Church. We came to Sweden when I was very young. For me, naming work with references to the Chaldean language is a way of highlighting my heritage and introducing the culture to a broader audience.
Brutalism, minimalism and sculptural aesthetics inform your work. What is it you want to convey through your work?
I want my furniture and objects to stand out, but still have a function and lend themselves to proper usage. Hopefully, they add something extraordinary to everyday life. I have come to know and love this particular type of aesthetic, and made it my own. I want to convey a sense of chaos and harmony at the same time. The shapes are oftentimes bold, but subdued through the choice of materials. I like it when the audience projects their own references upon my work.
You work in a broad range of materials, from glass and wood to graphite in your drawings. Can you tell us about why you don’t want to limit yourself in your choice of material?
Honest materials speak to me, and I look for materials that stand the test of time and display certain characteristics. But I also look for materials that suit the type of work I am creating. I started using pine during my studies, as it was cheaper than other wood. But I soon realized that it had other benefits – Swedish pine is available in abundance locally, which also makes sense when choosing what materials to work with. Another example of this way of thinking is found in my latest project ’Bel’, a sculptural recycling bin that is made out of metal. It is a nod to my hometown of Eskilstuna, that to this day has a large metal industry.
Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
Everything starts with a thought or a feeling. I’m usually inspired by something I’ve seen, and I always do a lot of hand sketching to find an idea I want to pursue. After that, I try out as many different shapes in CAD, and also create models in styrofoam. There are four women in my life who are instrumental for the outcome of my work. My wife Fairuz, my mother Amal, whom I named my ceramic cup after, and my sisters Mariana and Sinar. The latter currently studies at Beckmans College of Design. Aside from them, I don’t care much about what other people think.