I am sharing a very personal story today, one about an artist who I have known since she was born, Alison Smiles. You see, she is actually my cousin and my memories of her include midnight feasts, murder in the dark, Christmas parties, stays at our beach shack, sailing and building sandcastles. Stories, music, art and parties fill my memories of our days as little girls. The same age as my youngest sister, she was more like my second sister when we were little, and is one of the most talented, gentle and beautiful people I know.
Today I am sharing her story as an Australian Designer and Artist. Like me, Alison says she remembers a fabulous childhood. Our parents were all teachers and artists, and childhood was filled with so many opportunities to create. “I was lucky enough to have a fantastical wonderful childhood full of light and colour, in a dusty little town on the outskirts of Adelaide” remembers Alison. We would often stay with them and spent many hours playing, dreaming and creating.
Alison’s Mum, who is my Mum’s sister and one of 5 girls, was an art teacher and is herself an extremely talented artist. Her Dad was a music teacher and a drummer in a band. Life was good. “I cannot underestimate the impact this has had on my chosen path -my life was full of bedtime stories of gentle monsters and strange lands, I was encouraged to paint on the walls and love animals” she says.
I also remember being allowed to paint our own walls at one stage of our lives- such as freedom to create has huge impacts on children’s development. There should be more of it I say!
After she left home, Alison says she left her fantasy childhood behind, and began working in the “everyday world”, even though she knew that one day she would be back there again. Then, at the age of thirty-five, she decided it was finally time to travel back to this place within herself. She began her studies in Visual Arts at The University of South Australia in 2007. She completed her final semester of study while on student exchange at the University of Sunderland, in England, based in the National Glass Centre. This was an amazing opportunity. “My time studying at these places were invaluable, the staff that I encountered challenged me, supported me and provided world class training. I cannot speak highly enough of their talent for teaching and passion for the world of ceramics” she says. I can remember how excited and proud we all were to see her exploring the world as she explored her creativity.
In 2011 Alison was the recipient of an Arts SA grant which funded a mentorship with prominent artist, Vipoo Srivilasa in Melbourne. Following this hugely exciting mentorship period, she was accepted as a Ceramic Associate at the Jam Factory. During the program, she worked 3 days a week for the Jam Factory and received training under leading ceramicist, and creative director, Prue Venables. Adelaide played host to the Australian ceramics Triennial conference, where she presented work in four prominent and successful group exhibitions. The conference also allowed her opportunity to chair a panel discussion, and to participate in a workshop with renowned ceramic sculptor, Akio Takamori.
Following the departure of Prue Venables from the Jam Factory studio, Alison went on to co-found a collective studio with Jam factory Alumni, Sophia Phillips and Stephanie James – Manttan, called Six Hands Studio. This studio is a workspace, small gallery showroom and a venue for workshops. In 2015 Alison will be leading a workshop in pinch pot making for me with Recycled Interiors Studio so stay tuned for details! I am very excited by the chance to work with her.
In 2013, Alison attended the 2013 Macsabal Woodfire Symposium, hosted by the Taishan Porcelain factory in Zibo, China, and has some of her work in their permanent collection. Alison continues to make and exhibit from the studio as well as selling functional pieces in various galleries and retail outlets across Adelaide, and online Australia wide.
Hybrid animal/ humans loom large in her work and she says that she can’t help but think its all because of the bedtime stories, and those wonderful monsters in her room, all those years ago.
You can find Alison on faceook via Six Hands Studio here
Do you have a creative memory from childhood to share?