Interview Tamsin Blanchard
Photographs Asia Werbel and Sophie Alder
If you are in need of a little colour and light in your life right now, look no further than the intensely layered work of ceramics artist Alice Walton. Each of her pieces is like a world in itself, you find yourself getting lost in the meditative repetition of the textures and the subtleties of the colour. The perfect choice then, to create the trophy for this year’s Colour in Design Award which is now open for submissions as part of the New Designers Awards programme for 2020 (go to newdesigners.com for more information). Alice’s sculptural ceramics have been exhibited at the V&A, (where she was also graduate resident) Tate Modern, Make Hauser & Wirth, Collect 2020 and won the Wedgwood Prize at the British Ceramics Biennial. Alice was also selected as a finalist for Hole & Corner’s Craeftiga Award in 2018, so we have been excited to follow her progress. In the latest in our Makers in Lockdown series, we caught up to see how she has been dealing with the challenges of the last few months.
How long have you been in Bristol and how are you finding it?
I have been in Bristol for just under a year. I moved here from London after finishing my Masters in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art. I really love Bristol. It is really creative, friendly and relaxed. It is easy to move around the city and really quick to find beautiful green spaces or riverside places to relax. I am part of a great new collective studio in South Bristol which has fantastic facilities.
What’s been keeping you busy during lockdown? You seem to have made some extra special large scale works as well as the trophy for the Colour in Design Award. How did that commission come about?
I have been keeping busy during lockdown. Although a few of my exhibitions have been cancelled or converted to having an online presence, I have made sure to continue making, and tried to see it as an opportunity to spend time developing large forms.
The opportunity for me to make the Colour in Design Award 2020 came about after meeting the wonderful organiser whilst I was exhibiting on the Future Heritage stand at Decorex International last year. I was selected to exhibit at Decorex by writer and curator Corinne Julius who curates it yearly.
You have a particular approach to colour, and surface texture. How do you develop both in your work?
During my Masters at the Royal College of Art I was awarded the Eduardo Paolozzi Travel Grant. I used this to travel to Rajasthan in India, as this district is known for its vivid use of colour. The vividly painted sun-bleached street walls and the monsoon-drenched temples, to me, instantly resembled the dry powdery palette of coloured clays and I saw it as a time where I could gain confidence to use it in my ceramics. Now back in England, I still look at my surroundings for inspiration with colour. I also love looking at old maps of my areas of travel to inspire combinations of colour.
In terms of textures I enjoy seeing how street objects change around me and vary day by day depending on weather, temperature and human impact. I normally travel, stop and look, arrive at the studio and then draw from memory. This break in time allows for abstraction to happen as I remember and forget certain things. I then make directly from my drawings.
How has Covid-19 affected your practice or your approach to work?
I have been lucky during Covid-19 to have kept healthy and to have been able to continue making from my spare room. I think the time inside has allowed me to experiment and develop my textured surfaces and also to begin working with colour blending. I have also been looking back at previous drawings which I have kept within my sketch book. I hope to start making these in upcoming months.
Did you notice a change in what collectors are interested in buying? Do you think this pandemic will change how and what we buy?
I don’t think there has necessarily be that much change in seeing what my collectors buy at the moment. I think I have met more collectors and corresponded with them more online rather than meeting them at various shows though.
How have you found the online workshops during lockdown? You have done some group Zoom workshops as well as a one-to-one workshop in San Francisco! What sort of projects can you do in that time?
I have enjoyed teaching online classes during lockdown. I think that they have been successful because I have made sure I have a clear microphone and I have set up my SLR camera to create a crisp birds eye view of my making hands as well as having a forward view to talk. This has meant that it has been successful for people who might not speak English as their first language and would like to see the step by step processes in detail. I am planning on continuing to teach online and am planning a sign up section to my website.
During my 2 hour online class, organised by the San Francisco Clay Studio, I had 20 students from around the world mixing 2 colour blends. They then created 8 different tones from this which blended from dark to light. They then decorated an either 2 dimensional plaque or 3 dimensional little sculpture using my ribboning technique. Throughout I showed visuals to illustrate my inspiration in my work, possible inspiration in their work and had time to ask questions throughout. It has been really lovely to continue to stay in touch with some of these students and to see their final results after firing.
You took part in #artistssupportpledge. Such a great initiative. Were you tempted to buy anything?
Yes, the Artist Support Pledge is a fantastic initiative and helped me a lot. With my pledge I bought a beautiful painting by Brighton based artist Julian Brown.
Who are your clients, in terms of age/demographic.
My clients range quite vastly. I would say slightly more female than male but with a large range of ages from approximately 35 upwards.
What are you most looking forward to as we ease lockdown?
I am most looking forward to seeing the rest of my small family. My parents live in Suffolk so it has been too far to travel over lockdown.