Alice Walton, a master’s student in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art, forms part of John Smedley’s collective of British craftsmen in celebration of their 235th anniversary as the oldest manufacturing factory in the world. Together they will be showcasing their collective crafts via retail windows, consumer workshops, special product launches and exhibitions throughout 2019 and 2020.
How would you describe your craft?
I make decorative, sculptural objects from clay and I work with white stoneware and porcelain. I make sculptural and abstract forms that explore complex and intense surface textures and intend to provoke intrigue.
I work with coloured clay throughout its plastic and liquid states, aiming to highlight the meditative process of the material. In a world that is increasingly changing minute by minute I attempt to slow down, allowing my work to steadily evolve, brick by brick, pin mark by pin mark, the time I spend on each sculpture is completely personal to me.
All of the colours are create are made through colouring the clays with different additions of stains and oxides. I use a mixture of hand building techniques, press moulding, slabbing and coiling.
How did you begin your career?
From an early age I knew I wanted to work with an artist practice. My mum is a textile designer and so I had been bought up in a creative home. I enjoyed art at school but really only worked with drawing and painting so decided to go to Wimbledon School of Art for my Foundation Course. With my mother’s influence I decided that I wanted to continue exploring clay so decided to go to Brighton University to study on the Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastic course. I specialized in ceramics during these three years and haven’t looked back.
I now live and work in London since graduating from Ceramics & Glass from the Royal College of Art in 2018. I work part it me in my studio and teach ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum and with the UK Crafts Council.
What is your favourite part about what you do?
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 love experimenting to create different colours, mixing and blending tones to create more depth and exploring the point or pixel of repetition. I also enjoy seeing textures in my surrounding and imaging how to create them in clay.
What is the hardest part about what you do?
The hardest part of what I do it to juggle all of my different day to day tasks whilst having to make sure that at all times I know what stage of drying the sculpture are that I am currently working on. If a sculpture dries out too much it may crack or become too dry to finish working on. If it becomes too damp then it could flop, destroy the decorative texture that I have been working on, or not dry in time for a deadline. My busy days and days away from the studio for part time work can make this more difficult.
What makes your craftsmanship most rewarding?
I love seeing people react to my work. When I plan a sculpture I consider the object from all angles so that the viewer can look and explore the form. Maybe the form changes from side to side to create intrigue. I want the viewer to be able to look at my sculptures from a far and to have one perception of the surface then want to explore closer. On a nearer inspection the surface decoration reveals layers of multiple colours and time spent through process. I want to create exciting surfaces using traditional techniques in conventual ways.
Has your craft evolved into other/new skills over time?
Before attending the Royal College of Art I mainly made black and white tableware. I left making colourful non-functional sculpture. I think my work has evolved over the two year of my Masters considerably and I have had to learn and plan my processes quite differently. From the way I may build a piece to the way I would pack the kiln to fire it. I worked for three years at Brighton University as a ceramic technician so had time then to work with students problem solving with them. I think this time has helped with making my current work.
How have you stayed passionate and inspired by your craft?
I am passionate about my craft because I realise I couldn’t be happier doing any other job. I want to succeed to have a successful career but know that this will take time. I want to own a home and be able to travel and to do this I need to earn a living. By travelling and looking at my surroundings this in then inspires new work. This constant loop of making, travelling and living inspires my craft and maintains my passion for making.
What are the main projects you are working on now?
I am currently working on my largest sculpture yet. This piece is going to be shown at Collect 2019 at the Saatchi Gallery. I am so thrilled to be showing here as I always visited the exhibition when I was younger. I always dreamed to show here one day.
How would you describe your company/business in 3 words?
Exciting, unique, ceramics
How would you describe John Smedley?
Excellent quality, stylish, comfortable.
Do you have a favourite John Smedley piece, if so what?
I have a John Smedley jumper which was made in collaboration with Intoart which I love. I do really like John Smedley dresses too though. They are comfortable and timeless and great to wear to Private Views.
What are you most excited about for the future?
I would like to continue to make one off sculptures, upscaling and developing further my colour pallet and decoration techniques. I am most excited to explore how my work changes as my surrounding do, moving from an urban source of inspiration to rural. I hope to carry out further residencies to explore this which will hopefully result in new exhibitions.
Discover More about Alice Walton, HERE