To make ourselves more available to the design and construction community, we actively participate in a number of industry tradeshows, conferences and symposiums every year. Events like these are a great way to connect with potential customers, talk about specific projects on the boards, network with other suppliers, and educate ourselves on what’s up and coming in our industry and where the markets are headed.
The CRAN (Custom Residential Architect Network) show is particularly fun for our team. With the small-group vibe of the custom, residential architect community, many of whom we’ve come to call friends, CRAN is both enjoyable and highly beneficial for our customers and the Nichiha team.
Residential architects and designers are under the radar so don’t get as many resources or benefits that many building material manufacturers provide to large commercial firms. This includes giveaways! One aspect of the show that architects give us particularly good feedback on is our yearly, CRAN-attendee-only tote bag. At Nichiha we love our custom home architects and want to honor their creativity with a show giveaway that matches their talent.
Each year, we commission an illustrator to create a unique and distinctive drawing that represents CRAN’s architectural audience, the show’s location and Nichiha’s passion for stunning residential design. For this year’s illustration, we specifically looked for an illustrator who could capture both our love for the southwest and for Frank Lloyd Wright’s local architecture.
After talking with a number of graphic designers and illustrators, we were excited to meet Alex Clauss. As a lifelong Arizona resident, and a graduate of the Fine Arts program at Arizona State University, Alex has been immersed in desert style and color palettes since day one.
He says, “The Southwest, where I live, has always been an underlying inspiration to me and that comes out directly and indirectly in a lot of my work, whether it’s subtle stuff like a color palette that features turquoise or literal cacti and mountains in the illustrations.”
While working on our giveaway this year, Alex (at our request) drew inspiration from the work of American Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright spent decades in Arizona, and his work can be seen in and around the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, including the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Wright’s home and studio complex at Taliesen West.
“Living in Arizona, I'm familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, even in just a general sense. It’s very omnipresent here, whether it's the actual building that he designed or ones that are inspired by his work. Going to Arizona State University, I was even inspired by him as the Gammage Auditorium there was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.”
But Alex’s experience with Wright’s work goes deeper than just passing his buildings as Alex goes about his daily life.
“I worked at an art gallery in Scottsdale. They had a big archival collection of his negatives; I mean actual huge boxes full of photo negatives. A lot of them were of his buildings under construction, some of them were finished, some of them were for his family. And I would scan these in with this very high-end, expensive scanner to digitize an archive.”
Alex’s exposure to this archive gives him an insight that not many people have into one of the pillars of 20th century American architecture, and we were thrilled when he came up with a design that reflected both that expertise and the practical realities of what we’d need for our tote bag.
So how does someone go from a Fine Arts degree and a gallery archive job to making tradeshow art?
“I did a lot of gallery exhibition work installing art in galleries and whatnot at first, but then went into marketing out of college. I did marketing for about five years in the real estate industry. I worked at a title company managing a marketing department there, doing a lot of general flyers and postcards for real estate agents.”
Alex says the work was great practical experience for creating art within the confines of print, but after five years, he was ready to go out on his own and take freelance clients. But he sees those years in real estate marketing as a foundation for the work he’s doing now, including the architecturally-focused piece for us.
“I had the anchors of the must-haves in this piece, and I knew the format and the dimensions. Having a set of restrictions to work within is kind of like architecture, where you could design the craziest building in the world, but unless it's practically able to be constructed and accessible, then it’s just a drawing on paper.”
We’re really pleased with the outcome, too. Alex’s design was available on canvas tote bags and postcards at the Nichiha booth during CRAN 2019. If we missed you, let us know if you’d like us to send you a commemorative tote and we’ll get one in the mail. In the meantime, let us know if you have any projects we can assist you with, our team is happy to help. See you next year!
If you want to see more of Alex’s work, you can check his website, his side project, the Super Tough Baddies Club, or visit the Pretty Picture Club, where Alex helps coordinate illustrators and designers from around the world.