Life

Unusual careers: this woman designs board games for a living

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Hannah Keegan
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, games designer Alexandra Llewellyn takes us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights-out.  

Alexandra Llewellyn, 37, is a games designer and the founder of luxury bespoke games company Alexandra Llewellyn London. She lives in east London. 

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

At 6am. I try to avoid the temptation to check my emails and start work immediately, although that isn’t always possible. Once I’m up, I make myself a cup of tea and put on some music; I’m listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album Ghosteen at the moment. For breakfast, I might eat avocado on toast. Most days, I’m in jeans, a jumper and trainers; I love Nike Air Max. It takes me around 25 minutes to walk to my studio in Hackney. I find it relaxing. 

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I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR…

Running Alexandra Llewellyn London; we specialise in poker and backgammon, but clients can ask us for absolutely anything: a mahjong set, a chess set, all sorts. I’m responsible for every element of the design work, from understanding the materials and proportions to executing it.

I GOT THE JOB…

By launching the business making backgammon sets in 2010. I was working in product development at the time, so it was something I did in my evenings. The boards were immediately bought by Harrods and I quickly started to take custom commissions. I began working on the business full-time in 2014. 

Her games double up as beautiful ornaments.

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Starts at my studio. It has high ceilings and lots of light and is either pristine and ready for clients or all over the place because we’re making boards. The first thing I do is switch on the computer and read emails: they could be new business enquiries, from people we run workshops with or my team – there are three of us. If I’m designing that day, I go straight into that. Each design is completely different because each client is different. At the moment, I’m working on a zodiac project and a surf theme. I start with research and sketching my ideas and then put them together in Photoshop. For lunch, I try to go out and get something from a restaurant around London Fields; ramen or dahl. Design work can be intense, so I try to take a proper break.

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In the afternoon, I might go to meetings or have clients visit the studio. I show them the work and we discuss what exactly they want. Primarily, we’re making a game, but it’s also a beautiful object that will be a conversation piece in their home. Each one takes around three to four months to make. I try to leave at 6pm, but if I’m heavily into a design it can be later.

MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT…

Was collaborating with the photographer Terry O’Neill. We incorporated his photographs of Raquel Welch, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn into a backgammon board, which we called The Goddesses Board. 

She's inspired by her clients' lives and stories.

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…

Is time. I never have enough of it.

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is hearing stories I incorporate into a design. I’m exposed to so many extraordinary lives; the number of NDAs I sign is quite something. 

AFTER WORK…

I’ll go and see friends for dinner or spend time with my boyfriend. I love going to the cinema or the theatre. I much prefer getting into bed early–if I had it my way I’d be asleep by 8pm but it’s more like 11pm. Before bed, I’ll read or watch His Dark Materials – I loved the books when I was younger. 

My Plan B: painter

All my life, I’ve wanted to make beautiful things. I love to paint – I do abstract oil painting, which is very much about the materiality of the paint, the process and evoking a feeling in the people who are looking at it. Having said that, painting is very isolating, so who knows. 

Photography: Holly Whittaker

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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