INSIDE WITH: ALEX TIEGHI-WALKER

Alex Tieghi-Walker, founder of Tiwa Select, is a conscious aesthete with a deep desire to share the power of connection through objects and their makers. His online store's curation focuses on self-taught artists that reference traditional practices and is a beautiful testament to intentional commerce. Read on to discover the places that inspire him most, the rituals he relies on and his thoughts on mass production. His doors are open, step inside.

Where are you currently living and what are you up to?

After 5 years of living in Northern California, I've made it down the coast to Los Angeles and have been staying at my friend's house, a charming 1890's farm building next to Mount Washington. It was hard to give up my spot in Berkeley—a perfectly wonky redwood cabin that sometimes felt like a Japanese workshop, sometimes felt like a boat. I'm looking forward to finding my own spot down here, my only search criteria is a good bathtub. And a bathroom with big windows.  

How did your new gallery and store, Tiwa Select, come to be? 

I went to Japan last year (for my best friends' wedding!) and visited a bunch of artists and workshops, and really enjoyed learning about different folk craft practices. I especially loved the Kawai Kanjiro house in Kyoto. On the flight back to California, I started thinking about how I could create a space for artists in the US and Europe who were making objects with the same dedication to practice and craft, and working in traditional methods. I wanted specifically to work with makers who perhaps had no formal art training, who would make homewares. I started selling work by Megumi Arai, a friend and artist who practices the Japanese technique of boro (meaning "tatters") to make bedspreads and wall hangings.. soon more artists joined and now I sell works by eleven artists, including Matt Fishman who forages clay in the Sierra Nevada, and Vince Skelly, who makes stools from whole chunks of wood from felled trees he finds along the highways in Oregon.

What do you look for when sourcing objects?

The objects I think most fit in with Tiwa Select are ones that have their roots clearly anchored in folk craft—be it through intention, the materials, or the creative technique—but then there is something about the story of the maker that comes through so clearly. Like Megumi Arai's fascinating quilts which combine the colours of nature of that time of year (she hand dyes the material using plants) but also outlandish prints she has picked up from flea markets. The patchworks are full of such life. Even with found objects when I don't necessarily know the story, I can see the energy or the passion that has gone into creating it.

 How do you start your day? 

I'm a new puppy guardian. So I usually take Ivo (an 8-month mutt) for a walk up the hill behind my house; I usually take a walk in the morning before it gets too hot, and while everything is bathed in gentle paleness. I wake up really early, not out of habit or choice, it just ended up being that way. I also squeeze in some gardening, usually with a big coffee in hand. I'm not so good at just sitting still or reading first thing, I need to dive straight into an activity. I've been planting cactus foraged from waste lots in my neighborhood. When that's done, I want to build a drystone wall. I love seeing these elsewhere and I have so many rocks on my hillside that need a purpose.

What practices do you have that support you feeling your best?

I'm a bather. I bathe a lot. The first thing I did when I got to this spot in LA was to put in an outdoor soaking tub. It's the only place where I'm truly comfortable just sitting with my thoughts and my body. I just bought an old feed tub and placed it at the top of my garden surrounded by sage. I recycle the greywater to use in the garden. When I'm tired or anxious, or have had a challenging experience, I'll take time for a bath. It's like a reset button. In general I like being dipped in water - I surf, I seek out hot springs when I travel, I swim for exercise. Truly happiest when underwater. 

Travel seems to be such a big part of your life. Where does this stem from and where are you wanting to go next?

My mother was a huge traveler, spending most of her childhood living abroad in places like Italy and the Seychelles. As a single mother to me, she didn't have loads of money but always prioritized travel. We would take trains around Europe to stay on friend's farms in France, and we did a stint living in Italy when I was 10. My travel fetish just never went away, and I took myself to live in California and India before starting college, which I wrapped up in Buenos Aires. So yeah, always traveling. I get very restless and need the stimulation of figuring somewhere new out. Where I would most like to go next is Oaxaca, or the Mexican countryside. I'm dying to visit the ceramics and textile studios, and also the jardin etnobotanico in Oaxaca city. 

 What city inspires you most? 

I'm so stimulated by Mexico City; I feel a lot of creative, or aesthetically driven people would put this as their number one. I love the architecture, that Art Deco carried on through until the 70s, I love the 60s apartment buildings with huge windows, and the Barragan houses. I like the dense, dense cityscape but then nature and tropical lush plants growing with such abundance. It feels like Mexico City is proud of its creative and cultural roots, but pushes a new sensibility forward, too; this is so present in the food, the art, the shops. I like places that sit well with themselves; Mexico City feels very comfortable with being Mexico City. It's not trying to be anything else. And for that reason I also love Naples which is just such an acid trip of culture and stories; I get exhausted by Naples, but in a good, satisfying way. 

What are your thoughts on supporting self taught artists rather than larger companies who rely on mass production? What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a more conscious consumer?

I think what I find the most frustrating is that suddenly everything worldwide feels so samey: Airbnbs in New Orleans having the same IKEA plates as a cute little Bed and Breakfast in Rome. I totally understand that it is entirely a privilege in being able to say "you should support local artists or makers, consume locally" especially when this type of consumption can be more expensive, but I think that says more about how cheap the mass producers have made things. And I'm not perfect; I'd be lying if I said everything I bought had a history and I knew the name of the maker but I feel there is a slight middle ground. Brands that are still somewhat small, and may have some sense of locality, but have reached further afield without losing that authenticity, like Margaret Howell clothing or Heath Ceramics. I'm careful to also think about the longevity of an item which is something else I feel a lot of people forget. Spending more on one item which may last decades, rather than frequent purchases for the short term, which ends up costing more in the long-run. I'd also tell people to repair - I have a pair of ACNE jeans and I've taken the crotch, the knees to be repaired at least half a dozen times. I refuse to throw them away. I think people throw things out all too easily. I could write forever about this. I'm happy to see a change in this, albeit a slow one.

What artists have had the greatest impression on you? 

Forever in awe of any artist who takes a natural material and turns it into something that looks simultaneously made by nature, but also maybe made in another universe. Barbara Hepworth's megaliths, Calder's mobiles, Kawai Kanjiro's ceramics, Doyle Lane's weed pots. And also the thousands of unnamed indigenous creators like the Hopi ceramicists and Navajo weavers.. 

What are some of your favorite objects from your personal collection?

I collect sake cups, or little cups that may or may not have been created with sake in mind. Paula Grief made some wonderful little cups that I'd intended to sell, but kept for myself, then I have little cups I'd picked up in Mexico (so possibly mezcal cups) that look like they have been made from volcanic rock, but are actually clay. Other mezcal cups called caritas that are formed as faces with little noses and eyes; I like that such small little objects can have such a punch and be so playful, and are only used for very special occasions and toasts. 

What are you reading? 

I hate to say this, but recently I've become a terrible reader. I used to be so good at working through several books a week, now I barely get through a page a month. I loved my friend Fanny's book "Always Home" which made me nostalgic for her childhood,  and I'm trying to read another friend's book "The Hungover Games" by Sophie Heawood, about her life as a single parent, which is the family unit I connect with as that was my family setup, too. Single parents and children of single parents are often left out of narratives, or single parenting is shown as coming from a place of sadness or difficulty, which was not my experience at all. Slight tangent but I encourage reading the Hungover Games.

What are you listening to?

Today I listened to Oncle Jazz by Men I Trust, some Moses Sumney, and the Virgin Suicides soundtrack by Air, which I hadn't listened to for a long time, and it was totally worth it: soothing and romantic all at once. I like slow ethereal music on the one hand, but part of me will always be a shoegazer. 

What are you cooking?

All I make lately is a spin on Persian food. I basically found a great produce shop near-ish to me (Rick's in Silverlake) that has incredible herbs and vegetables, so I make a lot of kookoo (Persian frittata) and simple salads like cucumber with labneh and zaatar, or cooked chard drizzled with tahini and pine nuts. I like foods that you can just whack a dollop of yoghurt or tahini on top of, a crack of salt and serve. 

 What's next for Tiwa Select? 

This December, I'm launching a range of homewares and functional art made by eight of the artists I work with, who are each contributing an edition of objects that will launch during one-to-one outdoor tea-times. The stories of the objects will be told through their use: Leaves and Flowers are creating a custom tea blend that will be sipped from tea cups made by Paula Greif, and I'm making my grandmother's Victoria Sponge cake recipe (but using persimmons from my garden for the jam) that will served on plates by Ed Hill; guests will be sat on stools sculpted from White Oak by Vince Skelly, topped with a Japanese boro cushion by Megumi Arai. It feels important for these works to be handled—to be appreciated not just for their aesthetic interest but also for their functional integrity. And during a year in which we have been so isolated from each other, it felt necessary to use these objects as a way to bring us together, even on this modest, friendly scale.

 How do you end your day?

Almost exactly in the same way that I started it. A sunset walk and a little tinker in the garden. I also fastidiously tweak the lighting in my home to get it 'just right' - low lit to the level just above candlelight, like a pre-edison workshop maybe? I usually attempt to read but fall asleep before I take anything in. I sleep really well, it must be the rushing around all day.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published