Pottering Around. In Conversation with … Alice Walton

Portrait. Photo credit: Asia Werbel for John Smedley

Every time you launch a new project you think, believe and hope, that the project will always continue on a smooth route. Then ‘things’ take over, commitments, deadlines become tight and then a great passion, without paying the bills, takes a back seat.  In the background of the logistics of life, true love always remains. That passion you have for something that keeps you ‘alive’ inside and outside. BUT as months go by, storms always arrive plus 2020 has also seen our life plagued by the virus. And here we are, finally putting it into some kind of order – inside and outside … And then important things re-emerge. So after all this rambling, I am back and I am here to introduce a new ceramist.  Alice Walton tells us about her journey and her plans. So, now put the kettle on and make yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee. Sit back, relax and read ….

POTTERING AROUND. In conversation with … Alice Walton

  1. How did you start your pottery journey?

I began working with ceramics in 2005 at Wimbledon School of Art. I did a Foundation course in Art and Design here. I then went to Brighton University, graduating in 2010 and studying Materials Practice: Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics. I specialised in Ceramics and graduated with a First Class Ba (Hons). I stayed living in Brighton, working from my ceramics studio and exhibiting in small exhibitions around the country. I then worked back in the ceramics department at Brighton University as a Technical Demonstrator. I feel that I learnt a lot of technical and workshop skills from the three year that I worked here. I decided to go to the Royal College of Art in 2016 and graduated in 2018 from Ceramics and Glass.

Work in Progress. Photo credit: Sophie Alder

2. Handbuilding or on the wheel? Or both? And why?

I think the fascinating thing about working with clay is that you can make anything you want. Your imagination is the only thing that restricts the process. I am a hand builder. I like to not be restricted by working round a central axis. I find the growth of a sculpture within the hand building process satisfying.

Linn Ribbons. 59cm x 32cm x 31cm. Porcelain. 2019. Photo credit: Mark Robson

3. Your favourite type of material/ceramic?
My favourite material to work with is porcelain. It allows for the true colour of my pigments to be shown in the firing process and is beautiful to work with.

Mori Mandi. 35cm x 35cm x 45cm. Porcelain. 2018. Photo credit: Sylvain Deleu

4. Functional ceramic or sculpture? Or both and why?
I prefer making sculpture or sculpture which suggests function loosely. Again, I don’t want to be restricted by having to think too much about who the owner of the object is. I just want people to enjoy exploring my sculptures and interacting with them visually.

Janta Grove. 39cm x 17cm x 64cm. Porcelain. 2019. Photo credit: Sylvain Deleu

5. Do you prefer making in ‘solitaire’ in your studio/space or being part of/attending a group/class/club? Pros and cons?
I think there are pros and cons to both. I quite like the social side to working in a busy studio but then this can cause distractions. I like to be able to discuss ideas with like minded people but then allow quiet making time to work out an idea myself.

Coral Wall Ribbons. 60cm x 60cm x 9cm. Porcelain. 2019. Photo credit Sylvain Deleu

6. Working with clay is therapeutic; what is your relationship with clay?
I think working with clay can be therapeutic and in a lot of my repetitive time consuming processes I find it meditative. I think when you are also making our living from your making, this can also as the opposite effect, although overall I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Pushkarna II. 36cm x 15cm x 55cm. Porcelain. 2019. Photo credit Tom Hains

7. Do you have a routine, a typical day, a structure?
Not really. I love the changing variation of my days in the week. Sometimes I do work on a repetitive process for a month or so but within this there will be variation with teaching in between or photoshoots or just general admin.

8. What are you in the process of making at the moment?
I am working on a series of sculptures which explore colour gradation and variation of detail. I am looking at the ‘National Archive of Maps’ to research colour inspiration. The outcome to this series will be shown next year at Collect and at London Craft Week.

9. What has been your highlight over the last year?
My highlight was winning the Wedgwood ‘British Ceramic Biennale’ Fresh Award . Later this year, as part of the prize, I will be carrying out a 10 week residency with Wedgwood to develop new work.

10. And what’s coming next? What is it that you have been working on?
Next, I plan to research in preparation for my Wedgwood residency. I always like to research as much as possible before residencies because then it means you can make the most of your time once you are there. Also, I am moving house with my fiancé. We plan to build a studio in the garden so I’m sure this will take a lot of planning.

11. Any tips for a new entry/student in the pottery world?
If you want to build a career being a ceramic artist you have to remember building a career doesn’t happen over night. I would always suggest that you need to be patient and persevere. Don’t be put off if an opportunity doesn’t happen. Try again and learn from mistakes.  By being a self-employed artist prior to the RCA I knew that there are always ebbs and flows in work load. I am aware that I should be applying for opportunities even when I am busy as I realise that the busyness doesn’t always last.

12. One (or as many as you like) potter/artist that inspires you?
Anders Ruhwald, for his ambitious scale of work and exciting use of material and surface.
Phoebe Cummings, for her unrelentless passion for research.

13. A museum/gallery that should be a must-visit. Or a book to inspire you?
Windswept Baby by Bethan Lloyd Worthington.

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