Allison Joy Jones fell in love with creating prints for textiles her freshman year of college. “I had always loved painting and thought it was a great way to take a fine arts skill and make it commercial to turn it into a career.” So she went on to work in New York City for major textile companies specializing in bedding where she designed for brands both mainstream and high-end. Over time, she grew disenchanted with, as she put it, “the rat race” and the focus on cost-cutting over quality. The painter-turned-textile designer was ready for another transition.
Luckily, these feelings overlapped with a move to Mexico City for her husband’s work, giving Allison the opportunity to create a business she had been contemplating for years. Alegria Home was born. As soon as they arrived, Allison contacted Aid to Artisans and began traveling the country to visit artisan groups.
Way to jump right in! After connecting with artisan groups, what were your next steps?
I would see something they had done and see something really great in it then work with them to adapt it to be really salable in the US and still honor the techniques they started with. I’m fortunate in that my husband is getting his MBA from Wharton and is a co-founder so I have a lot of business support from him. I think that when you go from being a designer to a business owner, it’s a huge learning curve because it’s a different way of thinking about things. Also, the amount of time you are able to spend designing products diminishes significantly. If you are someone who likes to be challenged, starting a business is a great way to get out of your comfort zone.
You have now expanded far beyond Mexico. What is it like working in many countries- even different continents?
There are challenges working with artisans that you do not encounter in working with factories. In manufacturing with a factory, you are able to use the Pantone color system to specify color between countries. It’s easy to say I want Pantone 16-5245 TPX and everyone knows what you are referring to. The artisans we work with use local thread banks and keeping the color consistent throughout the countries can be a challenge. Because we often work with small artisan cooperatives there is a limit to the amount of work they can output. Working in many countries, with many artisan groups helps us to give steady work to many groups of artisans but also enables us to meet the demand that we have for our products.
You have moved back to the United States in order to continue growing your business, so you must be excited to be back home for the holidays. How did you celebrate while in Mexico?
In Mexico, both my husband’s and my family came to Thanksgiving and we hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner. Which was challenging because you can’t find all the ingredients- so my mother in law brought frozen pie crust and my mom brought canned pumpkin in her suitcase! The second year we did a Thanksgiving with other expats. During Christmas we were able to take time to travel and meet with our artisan partners in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. We mixed work with pleasure and worked for a week and then enjoyed a week of relaxing at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
If your holiday list is all about well-designed home goods that do good in the world, check out what we’re hoping is in our stocking this year. Though with Alegria Home, you really can’t go wrong. See our favorites and a behind the scenes tour in the slideshow!