Lexie Smith looks at bread from a conceptual, abstract, and political point of view. She came to Berlin for a collaboration
Lexie Smith lives in New York and launched the Bread on Earth platform a while back. I’ve been following her on Instagram for a long time. Her unusual subject matter and her special look regularly gets my attention. So when an email landed in my inbox saying that Lexie was coming to Berlin for a collaboration with Object, it was clear this interview needed to happen. Here she explains why she prefers to be alone when she’s baking, how she expresses herself through it – also politically – and what she has against the gluten-free industry.
How did you get into the topic of “bread”?
I started baking bread when I was really young. There was no particular inspiration, I just started. I wanted to know what I was eating, because food made me feel kind of sick a lot and I wanted to know exactly what was going into my body. My means of doing that was just to start making my own food. And I quickly found that I was drawn to bread and to baking.
You weren’t afraid of bread?
Oh, hell no! Gluten-free was nothing yet. And even as a sort of health and body-conscious teenager, bread never felt dangerous to me. It just felt like a comfort.
And you got into baking bread all by yourself?
My sister and I used to make funny snacks in the kitchen together, but I always baked by myself. It has always been a solitary act for me – and it still is. It is really meditative. I kept baking all through college and started baking professionally afterwards. But my interest in looking at bread from a more conceptual and abstract and political stance started two years ago. I was really tired of working in the restaurant world. I had been doing that for a little while and wasn’t feeling intellectually or creatively stimulated. I was kind of moving between art and food. And then I realized I was only interested in baking bread.
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So, bread is more like a communication tool?
Yes, it is very much a communication tool. I think of bread as a river. This is highly metaphorical, but I find it really helpful to visualize it. I call it the “River Bread” and there is a delta at the end and all of these streams flow out of it. And they are endless. And they are so rich with stories of history, gender, and politics. And there is also this purely aesthetic component: I, personally, find bread beautiful. It is one of my favorite mediums.
What do you think makes a perfect loaf?
I think a perfect loaf is one that is made with time. One that is slowly fermented, that is made by hand. You are connected and really involved with it. It becomes an intuitive process. You know how it is supposed to feel, smell, and taste.
What are your thoughts about the industrial food movement?
I am critical of the profits being made off of the gluten-free industry when the products are not responsibly produced or good for you – and people are eating them because they are genuinely trying to heal themselves. The gluten-free industry is worth billions, and people are actually suffering instead of going back and looking at the source. If you go somewhere and the water you drink is dirty and you get sick, you would never say “I am allergic to water.” You would say: “The water is dirty. I am going to get some better water.” People are not doing that with bread.
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Do you sometimes find inspiration through Instagram?
I am inspired by Instagram, but I say that reluctantly, and I try to remove myself from it as much as possible: Everybody is drinking from the same pool, creating the same work and sometimes stealing each other’s ideas without even meaning to – moodboarding instead of generating new content. So, I try to remove myself from that, because the more I consume it, I’m concerned that it slips into my work. If I’m going to share stuff, then it’s no longer mine: It’s part of the cultural and visual zeitgeist.
But I will also say that it provided me with some relationships that have changed the way I work, certain partnerships that have changed my life. I’ve worked with a girl who is from Pakistan and lives in Birmingham and we have never met. We have these big plans we want do together and we come from such different places. And she sent me a DM. She really inspires me in a lot of ways. So, Instagram is more like a communication tool for me.
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What can you tell us about the collaboration with Object?
It is not necessarily in my wheelhouse to work with a fashion brand – especially a fast fashion brand – and I definitely took that into consideration. It is really important to stand behind your collaborations and your work. Jan Fahlmann and Line Damgaard from OBJECT were incredibly receptive and genuinely wanted a collaboration, and I think that’s the only reason this worked out as it did. They allowed me to have a really international platform to talk from – and to hang bread from the ceiling (laughs).
OBJECT Spring / Summer 2018 Campaign
Image photographer: Benjamin Laustrup (OBJECT)
Video photographer Rasmus Arentsen (OBJECT)
Translation: Melissa Frost
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.