Geometric designs and pops of color are my jam. It goes without saying then that I’m obsessed with every piece by Xio Design Studio. These handmade wooden wall hangings are comprised of eye-catching chevron and pendleton patterns with brilliant color accents that make them irresistible.
Xihomara Alvarez is the genius artist behind these. Born and raised in Miami Beach, the Argentinian now resides in Joshua Tree by way of LA. Desert life in the slow lane seems to suit her well. Read on to see how natural surroundings and an urban upbringing inspired her beautiful woodwork.
How did your childhood in Miami shape you as an artist?
Miami Beach in the 80’s was a bohemian place with musicians, artists and a lot of young families who were first generation from South America and Europe.
My dad was very artistic. He was really into music and painting. I was also artsy so I took classes with adults as a child.
I was fortunate my high school also had amazing programs. They offered a photography class with a full photo lab and dark room, which I took advantage of. If they saw that you were good at something, they really tried to nurture that.
I was a two-time National Scholastic winner in high school which got me into college. I went to Corcoran School of the Arts & Design for a year to take the foundation program and ended up at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for Photography. I was inclined toward any visual arts: painting, drawing, photography. I got into building furniture, and it evolved into what I do now.
Can you elaborate on exactly how you got into woodworking?
I started building my own furniture when I moved to LA. My first pieces were really rustic — big farmer’s tables and long benches. Those pieces were expensive so I made them myself.
My wall hangings began as tabletops. Now I can make them more elaborate, and they aren’t as time-consuming. That began to evolve, and West Elm invited me to be part of West Elm Local so they now sell my work.
Who or what inspired you along the way?
The desert inspires me. There’s something about the wood that connects with the landscape and the way the chevrons remind me of sun rays.
I’m also an early 90’s hip hop fan. That’s what I grew up listening to, and I grew up with a lot of kids that did graffiti. I think that’s where a lot of my color use comes from. Also having lived in Miami and New York, I was in touch with the urban scene and used to wear my G Star skinnies with Dunks and a leather jacket. I had a hipster/hopster vibe, I guess? (Laughing) There’s definitely an undertone of all of that in my work. I could probably make a lot more money if I focused only on neutrals, but it’s fun to play with color.
What’s next for you?
What I really want to do is start building permanent structures and large furniture, perhaps for retail stores or restaurants. Similar to the counter I built for Frontier Cafe. I’m a builder. I enjoy making smaller wall hangings, but I also want to go nuts and build something large on-site. Then paint a mural there.
What brought you out to Joshua Tree?
I was in LA and felt like I was on this hampster wheel. I was really unhappy and I felt like I wanted to do something different. I think when you’re in your early thirties, you get an itch and wonder if this is it.
I was considering moving to Seattle, Oregon or Northern California. I was looking for places to live that had a garage so I could make art. I put it into Padmapper, and this area lit up like a Christmas tree. I had never really been to Joshua Tree before.
I made an appointment to see a house in Landers. As soon as I saw it, I drove to the owner’s house, signed a lease, wrote a check and moved out here two weeks later. I didn’t know anything or anybody out here! I only knew that when I saw the house and all those Joshua Trees, I thought, yes!
What is your life like here in Joshua Tree?
I haven’t left the desert in a year, and I’m not planning to anytime soon. I’m staying in the vortex. I like it here; it’s innocent. I don’t know what day of the week it is, and I’m just making stuff and hanging out with friends. It’s nice.
I used to be into buying expensive clothes and getting expensive haircuts. Since I moved out here, all of a sudden, I just don’t care about any of that stuff. I don’t care if my jeans are brand new because the desert is so rough that I don’t have anything nice. I go into town in my pajamas, and everybody else is in their pajamas. It’s great.
What are some of your favorite spots around here?
Garth’s Boulder Gardens is magical. He preserves so much land and anyone can visit anytime; it’s donation based. There are animals roaming around, and he does full moon ceremonies. Many photo shoots take place there.
Indian Cove is really beautiful. I love going there.
Those are the places that inspire me here. I try to get outdoors every single day and often go hiking and climbing with friends.
There’s something about the wood that connects with the landscape and the way the chevrons remind me of sun rays.
I can never have too many:
Right now I’m obsessed with:
Table belt sander
My drink of choice:
The last concert I attended was:
Matt Adams aka the blank tapes at the palms
My best travel souvenir was:
A vintage silver bracelet from Mexico.
I’m dying to visit:
The best advice I’ve ever been given:
I am first generation American, and my father had a huge impact on my life. He raised me to be strong and independent and always told me never to settle and to follow my dreams.