If you’re familiar with Birmingham’s creative people, it’s likely you heard the name Brumhaus already. This is the pseudonym of Alexander Edwards, a well-known Brummie designer that uses the city’s diverse architecture as an inspiration for his work.
What some people would describe as pop-constructivism, Brumhauns describes it as pure modernist art. Meanwhile, what we see here is an incredibly talented artist that is already recognised as a gem of Birmingham.
Midlands Trade: When and how did you become interested in graphic arts and illustration?
Brumhaus: I made a toy newspaper for my Action Man when I was a kid so I guess graphics was something I was interested in at an early age.
My Dad painted water colour portraits of me and my sister from time to time, so I think I understood you could do your own art outside of school for fun. I had some good art and design teachers at school but I was about average in the class. I think I just dropped into going to art school as it because it didn’t seem like work and I had a lot of enjoyment from it.
Midlands Trade: How would you best describe your style of work?
Brumhaus: This is difficult as it varies from project to project. Although the underlying theme with Brumhaus is semi-abstract with simple geometric forms and patterns.
I am influenced by Bauhaus as you may guess from the name, but this is as more of a play on words than a strict philosophy.I have called it modernist influenced art as a lot of the themes are Modernist architecture and design. Another artist I spoke to recently said it was Pop-Constructivism but I don’t have a precise label for it.
Midlands Trade: How was the transition from Andertype to Brumhaus?
Brumhaus: Once I produced the Birmingham Central Library print, things didn’t fit with the Andertype style. The new style is less hand drew and more technical with strong lines.
The subject matter was strong too and it ticked a lot of boxes for people; architecture, illustration, Brum. At the time the library was about to be pulled down and there was a lot of interest in the print and things took off from there.
It seemed logical to separate the two styles so I set up the new work as Brumhaus from there on in.
To be honest, it was quite easy to start Brumhaus, as I had already worked out a good work process.All I really needed to do was to create new social network accounts and a website and get producing more work in the new style. I had about 5 pieces ready from Andertype which fitted the mould so I set up Brumhaus with some content quite quickly.
Midlands Trade: Could you explain what the concept of Brumhaus is about?
Brumhaus: The concept of the Brumhaus idea is as much about the subject matter as the style of application. I think this may explain the popularity of my best work.Subjects vary from local architecture, modernist and brutalist buildings, typography and a lot of my work is themed around Birmingham and its places.
Brummies have pride for their city and the rise in outsiders’ perceptions of the city has really given the city a new feeling to me. There’s a real buzz about Brum.
Midlands Trade: Using Birmingham as an inspiration for your work, what would be your favourite place in the city?
Brumhaus: The new Library of Birmingham is such a fantastic building. Its roof gardens give us the chance to see miles of Brum which is something really special. Likewise, the view from the bar at the Cube at night. It’s a real spectacle!
Midlands Trade: And what would be your most and least favourite buildings in the city?
Brumhaus: Well, that’s too hard to answer. There are some great houses designed by John Madin. I love the white buildings in Edgbaston and there is a brick house around Moseley which has a really cool tower. Probably the best building is the Signal Box, which I’ve created two pieces of work around. Maybe the bad ones are the ones I pay no attention to.
Midlands Trade: Do you think about selling your pieces to other countries? If so, which ones?
Brumhaus: You can buy my work online and ship worldwide, even in Brazil I think ;). All my work is available at the Brumhaus Redbubble shop.
Midlands Trade: How has the Internet and e-commerce helped the development of your work?
Brumhaus: Hugely. Almost all of my current audience has been cultivated through social networks.
With Twitter, Facebook and Instagram you get instant approval via likes. Almost all comments are positive and it spurs you on to do more if your work is getting popular. And it’s pretty quick to get something out there and receive feedback.
Using Redbubble or Society6 that print the artwork to order and give me a commission on sales, enables me to concentrate on the fun part which is creating new work rather than buying stock and supplying to shops.
It suits me, for now, this way, but I can’t rule out any avenues of selling so who knows where things will go. I’m in the process of setting up an Etsy shop on which I will sell postcards packs, signed prints and maybe even original sketches.
Midlands Trade: What are the biggest challenges of a career as an Environmental Graphic designer?
Brumhaus: An Environmental Graphic Designer is more descriptive of what I do in my day job.
I work for a Sign company as head of design, creating graphic identities for buildings and places and also finding signs and graphics.Working to clients briefs is a little bit different to Brumhaus. It can often be tricky if the client can’t communicate what they want or they aren’t sure until they see it.
You need to be a mind reader sometimes but there are ways to limit this problem such as briefing them back or running a sample of your ideas past them for feedback.
I suppose the challenge is to come up with something on trend, but which the client likes too.
Midlands Trade: Who are some of your favourite illustrators?
I like other artists like Josef Albers, who is a member of Bauhaus. As well as Alexander Girard’s art is quite fun too. I also can name Paul Klee, Picasso and Barbara Hepworth. And I think that probably a mixture of all these influences has shaped my style.
Midlands Trade: Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Brumhaus: It’s good to set up a work process which enables you to get work completed and at the same time, it doesn’t take ages to be done.
A good system can be the key to production. In terms of subject matter it is always useful if it has a common thread or two which people will be interested in.
Midlands Trade: What are your future goals and projects?
Brumhaus: I’ve just finished a drawing, so I’m thinking about the next one.I have a few ideas on the go so I may dip into one those and do some sketching before picking the next project.
Longer term, I’m planning some London cityscapes and perhaps other European cities, who knows maybe I’ll do a tribute to Oscar Niemeyer who was an architect of Brazil’s modernist buildings.
There’s plenty to choose from in Brum though. It would be amazing for Brumhaus to continue to grow. It’s only been since November 2014 but things are picking up speed quickly. I have a good balance between Brumhaus and my day job but if I could work on Brumhaus full time that would be fantastic.
About Alexander Edwards:
Birmingham based artist Alexander Edwards attended Bournville College of Art & Design and the University of Wolverhampton before embarking on a career in Environmental Graphic Design.
As an illustrator, Alexander was working under the name Andertype for two years before taking a new direction with Brumhaus in November 2014. More info at Brumhaus.