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alison-feature

Tableware treasured through time

Wendy Johnson

Is there any end to Alison Jackson’s talent? It’s hard to know where to start with this shooting star of a Canberra designer. Let’s start with her first solo exhibition, opening to the public this Friday at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre.

‘Table Tools’ is a new collection of individually handcrafted tableware, serving ware, vessels and even kitchen utensils created by this artistic gold and silversmith. In line with Alison’s overall direction, the exhibition showcases work that, while simple, refined and pared back, is still beautiful and functional.

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The exhibition features around 48 high-end pieces, some grouped in small sets, and made with a range of materials, such as fine silver, silver, copper, brass and even steel wire. These are tactile pieces you’ll want to use, not just store away for a special occasion. And it would make Alison proud if you did. After all, she designs her work to last a lifetime.

With Table Tools, Alison has used traditional silversmithing processes and techniques to create a timeless range with a contemporary aesthetic. While much of her work is designed to be more commercial, many of these exquisite pieces are one-off. ‘It’s a consolidated body of work I created just for this show,’ says Alison. ‘Many pieces, while more sculptural, are still functional.’

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With the exhibition, Alison raises each piece of hollowware from a flat sheet and continues to work it through to finished form, hammering and shaping along the way. This age-old process is intensely time-consuming. It’s a painstaking method and one that commands skill and patience. ‘It’s old school and a somewhat primitive way of creating special pieces but I love it,’ says Alison.

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Avi Amesbury, CEO and Artistic Director, Craft ACT, says Alison’s work is informed by extensive research and by creating prototypes and then refining them.

‘She fuses traditional silversmithing handcraft techniques with contemporary industrial processes,’ says Avi. ‘Alison is intrigued by the way people interact with their objects as well as how an object shapes a space, influences an environment and becomes part of experience. Functional, tactile objects, like tableware, can reinvent a space; dictate how people behave and create a unique experience.’

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While each piece in Table Tools has a name, Alison is clear she doesn’t like to dictate how people develop their relationship with each piece. ‘They’re designed to be flexible and I want people to be inspired by their imagination and not restrict themselves to one use,’ says the artist.

The exhibition also features a small body of work called ‘Ten vessels in ten days’. ‘I created one vessel each day for ten days,’ says Alison. ‘It was a challenge and I worked pretty hard on those days. Not every one is 100 per cent perfect, but they’re unique and hold special meaning and value.’

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Included in the Table Tools exhibitions are items such as pouring vessels, whisks, large spoons, small spoons and scoops.

‘I’m inspired by the idea of how a simple object can transform an everyday experience, like eating a bowl of cereal at the start of your day, into something special,’ says Alison. ‘I often hear from those who have bought my work that a particular bowl, spoon or knife is their absolute favorite and how much joy they get out of using it over and over.’

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Alison works full-time out of her own fully equipped silversmithing workshop, affectionately called Pocket Studio, where she also teaches short courses. She discovered her love of silversmithing at an early age and was accepted to study at the Australian National University of Art, Gold and Silversmithing Workshop. While studying, she worked part-time for iconic Australian contemporary design firm, Fink and Co. She has also spent six months studying in Germany at the University of Applied Sciences, Gemstone and Jewellery Design in Idar-Oberstein.

The artist has exhibited throughout Australia and Germany and has won a number of awards. In 2014, she was a finalist in LaunchPad and exhibited as part of The Other Hemisphere exhibition at Milan Design Week. The year before that, she was runner-up in the prestigious Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, Craft and Object Design category.

Table Tools was made possible in part because of an Australia Council 2015 New Work Grant and artsACT project funding. The must-see exhibition also features a video of Alison creating ‘Ten Vessels in Ten Days’.

the essentials

What: Table Tools
When: 11 September to 24 October – Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 12pm to 4pm
Where: Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, Level 1, North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra City
Web: www.craftact.org.au

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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