Al Stampa, a design and illustration studio, run by Alex Labriola. After a decade of working in-house as a Creative Director in both the interiors and hotels industry, and freelancing on the side, she merged her two worlds to pursue Al Stampa’s daily mission…telling stories. Al Stampa means “to imprint”, which she does through design. She believes that an identity can be expressed by what you see, what you touch, and how you feel. These layers of visual storytelling allow us to build lives around beauty and authenticity.
We met Alex while collaborating at our first She Store Pop up where she made custom illustrations on our shopper bags.
Growing up with film, I think, is what created a space for my sister and I to dream a lot, create stories in our minds, and see how stories are told visually.
Can you share a little more about yourself, where you grew up, your background?
I grew up about 45 minutes north of New York City. Since 10 years old, if I was not in school, I was either dancing with a small company, or drawing, oil painting and intaglio printmaking, with a private teacher. My parents saw an interest in art early on with both my sister and I, and we are so lucky that they pushed us to pursue that, because she and I both have continued to work in creative fields.
My father always showed us movies – still a tradition with our family when we are together is to watch a film together at home no matter what the occasion. Growing up with film, I think, is what created a space for my sister and I to dream a lot, create stories in our minds, and see how stories are told visually.
My mom was and is always one step ahead of us. I remember the day she told me about “graphic design” when I was 17 years old and we quickly signed me up for an internship my senior year. This allowed me to see how I could use my drawing, love of color and composition, in an “art form” that could relay a message to just about anyone.
In college I continued learning communication design, but needed that hands on component as well, and ended up majoring in Printmaking. Printmaking to me has always been my favorite medium. I love the combination of different processes, from conception, to drawing, to etching, to inking, to pulling a print. Each pull is an experience, and something different can come out each time.
After college I worked at a hand-made wallpaper studio, in Amagansett, NY where I met people that I am still friends with and have since worked with in other companies. It was a life changing experience to be surrounded by other fine artists (printmakers!) making a living, using our hands. It changed my perception of what was possible for me.
After leaving that job I began to work in graphic design again, and found myself loving that work and what I was learning through being a part of different brands. I ended up at an interiors company for 6 years as creative director of brand, and then continued into the hotels industry in the same role. I love working with brands on photo direction, designing print pieces and developing a visual identity to tell it’s story.
On the side of my day jobs, I began letterpress printing 10 years ago, in Brooklyn NY, and it was the perfect marriage of graphic design, illustration, and printmaking. I had a lot of wedding invitation client work that I would create on nights and weekends. I knew I wanted to continue branding, letterpress and drawing as a profession and ultimately work for my self full-time, and that dream grew each year. From when I was very little I had always wanted to be my own boss.
You moved from Brooklyn to Amsterdam, what brought you here and what do you miss most?
My father in-law was born in the Hague, so my husband, Rollie, has Dutch citizenship. We always dreamed that we would leave NY and head to Amsterdam in some part of our life. At a certain point in both our careers, we were a bit unhappy. We seemed to lose that little spark we used to have about our future in New York, and my frustration with not being able to focus on my business full-time was weighing on me every year I got older. Most of our friends and family were buying homes, settling down, having children. We knew we had to change the landscape of our life, and so my husband applied for a Masters program here as a dutch citizen, and got in. We were terrified, and felt a bit silly to be in our 30s, leaving big paychecks and “stability”, packing up a 9 year life in Brooklyn into boxes, heading into the unknown, but it was the best decision we have ever made.
While we miss friends and family an insane amount, and NY deli sandwiches (!!), we don’t miss the pace of NYC. We love this city and all it has to offer both of us in terms of career, lifestyle, and more, and for once we feel like we live a bit more in the present because we enjoy it so much!
What’s the best part about doing what you do?
My favorite aspect of what I do is taking little dreams and bringing them to life. I work with so many women, who are starting new businesses, that are so extremely passionate about their story. One client I had said that getting the branding style guide I make for all my branding clients at the end of our time together, was like opening the best present she could ask for. It’s a new start for many people, and there is so much gratitude there. I also become a partner with a lot of these clients, and stay in touch as their business grows.
I also love that I can manage my own schedule, so I can devote time to something for me every day, whether that be printmaking at this tiny studio within the canal rings, or working on my current project which is an illustrated wallpaper line.
We’ve noticed that you travel a lot throughout Europe, what’s been the best places you visited so far?
My favorite city I’ve traveled to so far has been Stockholm. There is something about the neighborhoods, the food, the landscape, and the people, that I loved. I loved the green lung of Stockholm, and hope to visit it again in the summer. I wrote up a little guide to our trip there on my website!
Berlin was also a big favorite, although it felt so much more spread out. The food was amazing, the speak easy bars, and the history of the city was something that was incredible to see in person.
Lastly I’d say Sicily was incredible. My favorite part of Sicily was Ortigia and Noto. Driving around and hopping into the Mediterranean Sea everywhere, was unforgettable. The food and wine was the best I’ve had in my life! As you can see, food and drink is very important to me!
How do you take time for yourself outside of work?
I love yoga, and try to practice 2-3 times a week. I also started to meditate in August, this summer, and it’s changed everything for me. Outside of that, my husband and I love to cook at home, and do so every day. I love watching movies, it’s always been a big part of my life. My work and life are so intertwined. I don’t go a day without drawing or designing, even on weekends, and I hope that never gets old.
What’s on your nightstand?
Whatever book I’m reading, right now it’s War in Val d’Orcia, trying to read a book a month this year! My best friend gave me a little ceramic dish for my rings when we lived together in Brooklyn. It holds a medallion a family member gave me that says “if not now, when,” a worry doll my sister gave me, and a few of my enamel Be Heard pins that I sell. A sleep oil from 2Note in Hudson, NY that you put on your temples before bed to give you “sweet dreams”, And a nose spray because I just found out I’m allergic to cats, and my little kitty Lou sleeps next to me every night! 🙂
I don’t go a day without drawing or designing, even on weekends, and I hope that never gets old.
Describe your ideal weekend, do you love cooking for friends at home or go out?
We love cooking for friends at our place. People have always said we have such cozy homes, everywhere we’ve lived, which is so nice to hear. While we do love going out, we leave it for special occasions now. Our favorite restaurants here in Amsterdam are Rijsel and Cafe de Klepel.
Could you describe yourself in 3 words?
Ambitious, Artistic, Passionate
Can you name your favorite Cosima product?
The first product I was drawn to, and purchased instantly, even though we were on a “we just packed up our life and moved to another country” budget, was the Small Wallet in Mustard. I still use it every single day (year 2.5) and it has worn so beautifully. It’s super soft and the color is still gorgeous.
See more of Alex‘s work here.
Photos by Rollie Kielman.