By Sophie Dawson

WHEN Alexa Batty was in college, she always imagined she would end up in London. What she hadn’t envisioned, were the fantastic opportunities that would arise right on her doorstep.

At school, Alexa studied surface design, but after embarking on a foundation degree and exploring all forms of art, she settled on textiles to complete her degree at Cleveland College of Art and Design.

“I’ve always been interested in art and design,” says the 23-year-old.

“My grandma worked in a clothing factory and she looked after me a lot when I was younger. She taught me how to sew and we used to make things together.”

The Northern Echo: Alexa batty

Now production manager for local homeware and jewellery designer Gillian Arnold in Bishop Auckland’s Pod workspace, designer Alexa has no regrets about staying in the North-East. After interning at Mark & Spencer, she was offered an interview for a junior designer role in homeware, but decided instead to take her chances in the region. “The opportunity I have up here is rare and I want to pursue it to see where it goes,” she explains. “There are always exciting things going on at Pod.”

Alexa says Pod and Number 42 (the gallery underneath the workspace in the market place) provide a brilliant stepping stone for local artists. “It gives them somewhere to sell and exhibit their work. It’s also a great place to meet other creatives and find out about other things going on locally,” she says. “From meeting people through Pod, I have found out about places where I can stock my work, exhibitions to take part in and places to visit for inspiration.”

While working full-time for Gillian, Alexa also creates her own homeware and surface prints, drawing on her Polish heritage for inspiration and ideas. “Polish folk art is probably my main inspiration. I use mixed media to produce all my work by hand, keeping a strong emphasis on a hand-painted element, which is linked to my family history,” explains Alexa. “In all my relatives’ houses there are objects with hand-decorated Polish patterns on them. I scan them into the computer so that they can be digitally printed for the products I make, and tweak them as little as possible to keep the hand-finished look.

Alexa tends to shop in local charity shops and flea markets, discovering inspiration in old pottery or similar objects which have floral decoration. “The way cultures use floral decoration as a way to express tradition, style, heritage and religion really interests me,” she says. “I do like to travel, mainly in Europe, and I take photographs of any floral decorations that catch my eye on tiles or buildings.”

As for the future of her art, Alexa is taking it a day at a time. “I am slowly getting round to setting up something to sell online,” she says. “I sell in Pod now and have a few stockists lined up both locally and further afield. My favourite print so far is my heart print. I think it explains my style well - it’s colourful, textured, floral and hand-painted.”

In the little spare time she has, Alexa has picked up quite an unusual hobby - collecting gin! “My last count was about 28 bottles,” she says, “I do enjoy a nice gin and tonic, but I choose each one on the design on the bottle. I’m undecided on what I’ll do with them all, but I want to create something when I get my own place.”

Alexa is on Facebook @ Alexa Batty Surface Pattern Designer