It’s all in the making | Alison Smiles
Well Made practitioner Alison Smiles creates ceramics that combine form and function. From household items to playful characters, she draws from her “fantastical wonderful childhood full of light and colour” to fuel her practice. We caught up with Alison to find out what she’s been up to, what’s inspiring her and how she balances study with her busy life as a working artist.
Hi Alison! What does an average day look like for you?
Hello! Currently, my day starts quite early. I’m studying Honours at Adelaide Central School of Art at the moment so life is pretty busy.
I’ll usually have mapped out my week ahead with making days for my production work and also a couple of admin days – following up on events that might be coming up, planning long term goals, or delivering work to suppliers. Luckily, now my studio is only a few steps from my back door, I can always break things up into two-hour blocks of time. There’s a lot of time intensive repetitive work with making ceramics, so podcasts are currently my best friends!
What are you most inspired by at the moment?
I recently returned from a trip to the USA where I did a workshop with the artist Sergei Isupov. I was really inspired by his work ethic, as well as the way his family lives a life of eating well, making do with what is at hand, living frugally and respectfully of the environment. They had the best of everything – making homemade pickles and bread, even down to grinding their own grain – it seems a natural extension of how a maker should live, connected to the natural world and its resources.
You’ve recently moved into a new studio. Has this had any effect on the way you create?
My new studio has really been a godsend. It is tucked away at the back of my property, so I am able to be connected to my work in a way that I have never been able to before. Being able to keep a close eye on how work is drying or how the kilns are running has been really great. We also recently installed a solar power system, so I am able to run my power-hungry kilns from the sun, which makes me so much happier about the environmental impact of my making.
Also birds – birds are everywhere in our garden, and being around the squawky Rosellas and the sassy little Willy Wagtails helps keep me connected to the joy of animals, which is actually a really big part of my work.
What prompted your decision to go back and study again this year?
It was time to feed my intellectual brain again, to push my making a little further. I’m finding the environment of Adelaide Central School very valuable. There’s no other way to really take that time and kick around lofty ideas with an artist whose work you really value and respect than to do what I’m currently doing. Even if it’s a bit of a squeeze financially and time wise as well, it’s been great.
Where do you see yourself taking your practice in the future?
I’m being drawn to ceramic sculpture more and more. Even though I love making pots, there’s a very special moment when your work comes to life when it has arms and ears that gives me a real kick every time.
Image (banner): Alison Smiles, 2016, Photographer Claire Alice Young. Images (top to bottom): Mardi Gras Mishima, 2015, Wheel thrown porcelain with mishima style black inlay, accented with coloured slip, dimensions variable, Photographer Michael Haines; Alison Smiles, 2018, Photographer Caren Elliss. Tea Stories, Wheel thrown and hand built cool ice porcelain, 100 x 150 x 150mm, Photographer Harmony Nicholas; Jazz Hands, 2015, Handbuilt white Raku clay with coloured slip patterning, 300 x 300 x 250mm, Photographer Michael Haines.