A one-to-one with the illustrator, Alfred Basha, to explore his style and background
Alfred Basha is an illustrator with a deeply dreamlike perspective who takes his inspiration from wild nature for most of his designs. He has been working with the beverage sector for some time, including some key international collaborative work.
Precisely for this reason, we decided to get to know him better by asking him a few questions about his work.
First of all, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Who is Alfred? Can you tell the Tapì readers something about yourself?
“My name is Alfred Basha and I was born in 1990, in Kruje. It’s a mountain village steeped in history about 40 km, or 25 miles, from Tirana. I came to Italy with my parents in 2002, when I was 12. And this is where we made our new lives.
I’ve always had a huge passion for design. And because of this, I got a degree in Industrial Product Design from the IUAV University in Venice. Shortly after that I started work in the field, but unfortunately, I realised that it wasn’t really what I really wanted to do with my life.
My life as an illustrator started by chance and while I was at university. Back then I used to make hand-printed t-shirts that I’d designed. And I’d sell them to my friends for a nominal amount to cover my costs. Over time demand began to grow and I started to sell them and ship them to retailers across Italy. That was how Alfred Basha was created – a casual t-shirt brand made with my designs.
After I opened my Instagram page to promote my work, I got an email from the team that run the software platform asking me for an interview to include with others they’d done with emerging artists. It certainly was the breakthrough that I’d been waiting for. Although I’m only self-taught, I got 13,000 more followers overnight. People who were really interested in my drawings and my interpretation. This let me create a space in the art world and it was the springboard for everything that’s happened since.
I am currently on the web, with my own website, and on Instagram – that brought me so much good fortune – and Pinterest. This is where I get the majority of my requests for work from the beverage world.”
When did you get involved in the beverage world? And why? What was your first commission for the sector and what else have you or are you currently working on?
“My first piece of work in the beverage sector was about 3 years ago, in 2017. The multinational Boon Rawd Brewery from Thailand that’s famous for its Shinga beer contacted me as it was about to launch Snowy Weizen. It’s an innovative wheat beer in its market segment and they wanted one of my illustrations to print on the can. After some careful discussion, they chose an image of a bear – one of my most well-known and most-liked designs. This experience opened up a new world for me and more work requests came in. I’ve done work for some wine producers from the Napa Valley, in California for some specific customisations on their products. And I’ve worked with other wine companies and with Hine, one of the oldest Cognac producers. I’m currently developing a project that’s demanding and inspiring – it’s the coordination and design for the production of labels for a new range of alcohol-free distillates for a brand in California.
When you take on a new project, what are the different phases? From the brief to the finished article.
“The phases are quite linear and most often I follow a specific process. Firstly, it’s so important to have a dialogue with the customer with the aim of defining a brief covering the key points as well as understanding exactly what they need for the finished product.
Once I’ve received the keywords to focus on, I begin by doing some online and offline research – mostly in vintage illustrated books. This helps me to find so much more inspiration to get on with the work. When I’ve got an idea, I begin making some sketches that I’ll then take to the customer. We then single out the sketch that I’ll develop to finish the design and make the final illustration by adding in all the details.”
Most of your illustrations are linked to wild nature – what does that mean to you?
“Really, wild nature is the direction I wanted to take on Instagram to make a name for myself. As I said earlier, I’m self-taught and I like to experiment and move towards various styles and techniques. That way I can be as versatile as possible, and I can create on paper exactly what the customer is looking for. And it’s just for this reason that I’m thinking of redesigning my website to show off my versatility – or at least part of it.
The idea of showing only images connected to nature on Instagram came from my desire to get myself into a specific world. With my Albanian roots and coming from a mountainous landscape, I sometimes feel the instinct to depict the place where I was born and the animals that live there. Bears, hawks and wolves – all of them wild, free and owe nothing to anyone. What I love about them is that they’re not slaves to life and the system we inhabit. When I draw these images on paper, for me it means hurling myself into another world that represents absolute freedom.”
If you could take on a new collaborative work in the beverage world, which product would you like to experiment with? And why?
“I’d like to have look at the world of spirits. It’s a context that’s very similar to the one I am working in, in terms of creativity, stylistic research and product storytelling. Spirits have a strong taste, a bit like nature, and for me that’d be a real challenge.
Going into the detail, I have always wanted to work alongside a brand to develop images for a liqueur or a grassy or spiced bitter drink. Something with deep flavours that marry well with my passion and nature.”