Visit Elena Xausa’s online portfolio and you might notice something strange: her logo is moving. The hand-drawn set of slightly squinty googly eyes looks from side to side and blinks, as though happily contemplating the world beyond the computer. It’s the perfect introduction to a young Italian artist who is colorful, sweet but crazy, and incredibly witty, just like her illustrations and graphics.
Born in Vicenza, but currently based in Berlin, at less than 30 years old Elena has already become a successful illustrator and graphic designer, co-founded an independent publishing house, established herself outside of Italy and collaborated on some amazing skateboarding products. With so much happy energy coming out of her drawings we can’t wait to see what she does next.
Your illustrations seem to be colourful, happy and fun with a great sense of humor. Are they a reflection of your personality?
Yes, they are colourful and fun and they totally reflect my personality. Most people I know think I’m a very positive person. I’m always smiling exactly like the characters in my illustrations. In the beginning, I tried hard to do something darker and more serious because I really liked these kind of elegant illustrations. But it’s not my cup of tea: I always feel that a smile is missing.
How would you characterize your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
I really love people who are not acting at all, spontaneous friends that appear as they are. Individuals who are sincere and honest; these are the people person who make me enjoy my time.
You’ve designed wheels, boards and apparel for Strange Skateboarding. Do you skateboard?
No, I do not, but I’ve always been fascinated by this culture made of crazy riders because the ‘skater image’ emerged as something legendary when I was a teen. I started to draw boards because I liked the idea of people having this iconic object with my own design on it. So I talked to my friend Davide, who owns a skate company (Strange Skateboarding), and I started drawing for them.
You co-founded the independent publisher Automatic Books in Venice, which is distributed globally. Now that you live in Berlin what is your involvement with Automatic Books?
I’m not in the team anymore. Since I moved here it was kind of impossible to work on it with the proper involvement. I’ve seen Automatic Books growing and all the results we reached together were surprising and exciting. For sure it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
If you didn’t have to think about time, money, or clients what project would you most like to pursue?
First I would love to work with ceramics; I’ve been trying to do it for a long time. I think it would give me the chance to work in a three-dimensional way and on the skin of the object throughout decorations. But the list of works that intrigues me is almost endless, this is just one of my favorites!
It seems that you work primarily for Italian companies and yet you live in Berlin. What made you decide to move there? How has the experience of living in Berlin affected your work?
I came here because the city offered me the chance to continue my profession as a freelancer, living in an affordable and enjoyable place. Here you can feel a lot of energy because a bunch of things are going on. You can feel the city is spreading and moving fast, but I didn’t notice any change in my artistic style, maybe it’s just too early to notice it … can we postpone this question for one or maybe two years?
What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages to being an Italian illustrator / graphic designer in the larger European scene?
Well, everything has become more complicated. There is a lot of competitiveness, especially here in Berlin. Since the diffusion of computer knowledge and resources it has made it easier for a lot of people to start working as illustrators, but there isn’t an effective market law yet, so all offers are continuously brought down and the system is not always meritocratic.
After you’ve gone to visit friends or family in Italy, what’s one thing you always bring back with you to Berlin?
Books, magazines and mom’s apricot marmalade.