Art director

New York Art Director Alexandra Zsigmond on Experimenting and Finding Your Voice as a Creative

This is something Alexandra shared with students at Wix Playground Academy. In this five-week online program, fully sponsored by Wix.com, young designers take the opportunity to focus on discovering their own creative identity and building a digital presence that stands out to reflect it. . Through experiential learning, like the Tamata workshop, students meet experienced designers who mentor them and share their process of creative growth.

Previously, we caught up with Alexandra and asked her about the content of her workshop and how it relates to finding your inner voice as a creative, knowing what you stand for and effectively conveying it to others.

What is Tamata and how did you get interested in it?

Tamata is an ancient tradition, present in almost all cultures, of the votive object used for prayer and healing. Half of my family is Greek, so that’s part of where my interests come from.

In the Greek Orthodox Church there are these little metal plates that have been engraved with the image of a part of the body, which could be a hand, the heart or the lungs. And if you or a loved one has an illness, you will bring it to church to pray for healing or give thanks after healing.

I grew up with this tradition, and because I have had several heart surgeries, I have received many heart votives in my life from my friends and family. So I have that personal interest, as well as in visual lexicons more generally. These objects form a lexicon, a sort of alphabet or graphic system, which I find really interesting.

So I started exploring new visual languages ​​for these objects and learning how to engrave metal by hand. I have no previous experience in working with metal: I am more of a curator and a painter. So it was a big learning curve.

Votives have not traditionally been created to relieve anxiety or any other type of more emotional affliction. So I made a whole series of these plaques, exploring inner body language and emotional experience. And this is the starting point of this workshop.



Artwork by Francisco Vega

Artwork by Laura Roa



Artwork by Laura Roa

So what is the workshop all about?

I give an introduction to my work, both as a curator and as an artist. And then, the students learn to emboss the metal by hand. Then they create their own internal language to represent something they want to heal from and etch them onto the plates. And at the end, we talk about the language they created. So it’s personally fulfilling and also graphically interesting.

Besides the specific skill you teach, how does this help creatives grow more broadly?

For me, as a curator, for example, I’m really interested in how illustrators and artists can use visuals to capture something of their internal experience, to capture something invisible. Like illustration, in particular, has this incredible ability to visualize the invisible. It’s a power that artists have to be able to put into concrete, physical terms, something that’s so amorphous.

I also think there is a power in turning your own emotion and difficult experiences into something visual, to better understand it, and also to distance yourself from it. Because thinking about our own emotions in metaphorical and visual terms is a form of healing in itself.

Starting from a place of quiet reflection and the pleasure of doing and experimenting, this is where a lot of creativity comes from.

For people who work mainly in digital, this must be a good way to have another look at your creativity?

Yes, it’s good to have the chance to experiment with new materials. For example, until I did this, I had never worked with metal before. In fact, I guess most of the people in the shop have never worked with metal. And it just opens up new ways of thinking.

You are also engaged in the process of developing a lexicon as a system. You will therefore develop a lexicon of eight to ten symbols that represent an inner experience and emotion. And this experience of translating complex feelings into simple visual language is really what all designers do. That’s certainly what happens in illustration, where when you have an article and you interpret it, you kind of distill the gist into a very cohesive, simple, and striking image.

So this process is really the same but just applied to a different and very specific medium. And the more you do it and apply it to different contexts and materials, the stronger and more flexible thinker you can be.

When you have already taken this workshop, what kind of feedback did you get?

The feedback I’ve had is that the metal etching process was much more fun and therapeutic than people expected. They also enjoyed the process of creating a new alphabet or lexicon to represent their thoughts. At the same time, people said that the engraving was difficult and hurt their hands. So they both loved the new medium and found it difficult.

Artwork by Marcelina Slabuszewska



Artwork by Marcelina Slabuszewska

Work by Anca Tomescu



Work by Anca Tomescu

Do you think it’s important for creatives to step out of their comfort zone and do something completely different?

Yes. Personally, I consider this specific workshop as a form of meditation. I think any kind of internal creative meditation can be helpful. It helps ground you in your own creative practice, thoughts, and self-awareness. Starting from a place of quiet reflection and the pleasure of doing and experimenting, this is where a lot of creativity comes from.

We all need more play in our lives. One of my favorite activities is going to artistic residencies. It’s this quiet space, just for you, to immerse yourself in whatever project you’re doing at the time and also to meet other artists. The combination of meeting other artists and working on projects simultaneously can be really rewarding.

Finally, what did you learn about yourself thanks to Tamata?

It is an ongoing exploration. I am currently working on a commission to make a whole new series. And I’m trying to figure out how to make them on thicker metal and reproduce them more easily using a hydraulic press. So I learned more and more about metalworking as a way to move the project forward. And it’s a constant learning opportunity for me.

Also, because of my health background with my heart, this is a project that feels very meaningful to me personally, and I have this desire to continue developing it accordingly. Moreover, it’s a way to keep looking for Greek culture, which connects me to my family. And learning a new medium was helpful, just to be confident in my own ability to understand something new.