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one-hundred and sixty

Alana Wilson, Tamarama NSW

Words by Elisha Kennedy

Images by Andrew Butler

For Alana, working and living parallel to the ocean feeds both her soul and her work. Her textured ceramics are reminiscent of white-washed walls and ancient vessels that may have spent years ageing and accumulating character at the bottom of the sea. Curious to learn more about her practice and watch her at work, we visited Alana’s home and studio space.

 

Can you tell us about what made you decide to pursue ceramics?

I initially went to art school, imagining I would do painting, however I did ceramics on my first day and LOVED it. I loved the meditative quality, physicality, varying technical possibilities, and chose to continue. In hindsight, I can see how in my childhood I was curious about physical environments, spatial relationships and varying natural elements – light, water, air, landscape. I still don’t define myself as working purely with ceramics but the harmony of technical, theoretical and aesthetic counterparts definitely keep me hooked.

What are you working on at the moment?

One of my goals for this year was to connect with viewers who had an alternative pre-conditioning to my own – outside of Australia, with different social values, hierarchies and understanding or exposure to ceramics and Fine Art. Showing work in different cultures and cities definitely gives you a scope of where value is placed in people’s lives and the kinds of physical and conceptual points they are connecting with. I’m been working on a body of work to exhibit in New York in November with Romy Northover called T, an exhibition of tea bowls that will open November 2nd at Floating Mountain Tea House.

 

Your work often references the element of water, can you tell us about this?

Water is a huge part of my life and hence a huge part of my work. I grew up swimming, in a family of swimmers with my parents running a swim school. The pool was where I would be at 5am every morning, and leave at 8pm every evening, with school in between. It was my second home and the lessons I learnt through competitive swimming and the people I spent it with are still hugely valuable in my life. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give back to swimming as a skill and a sport so I continue to teach swimming 3 days a week. When I’m not at the studio, I’m in the water 8 hours + per day. For me, I learn so much about humanity and the human connection through teaching and that component of my life is hugely important to maintaining the balance of a studio practice, where the communication and connections spark primarily through a visual language. I grew up very close to the ocean and vast natural environments in New Zealand, and live and work in Tamarama in Sydney, where the water is such a big part of life. That connection to natural landscapes, witnessing constant change and decay and knowing there is a presence of empty natural space is great reminder of all of the philosophies I believe in and the kinds of values I aim to instill in others.

 

Water is a huge part of my life and hence a huge part of my work. I grew up swimming, in a family of swimmers with my parents running a swim school.

What are some of the things that you enjoy about where you live?

I love knowing there is the edge – the edge between civilisation and nature. Having the vast natural environment right there is extremely calming and allows me to observe and value natural courses of change and decay – which often happen in everyday life but with a stronger sense of attachment and hence a stronger sense of decay or destruction. I love being able to watch the light change throughout the day and the landscape change throughout the seasons.

I love knowing there is the edge – the edge between civilisation and nature. Having the vast natural environment right there is extremely calming and allows me to observe and value natural courses of change and decay.

 

Do you have a morning routine?

I always need a coffee or two in the morning, and love listening to the birds as they wake up. You know the sun is about to rise as the birds start.

A bedtime routine?

Always a bath! Having an hour or two with nothing in front of you to direct your thoughts is bliss. I make the majority of my decisions in this time and believe that having that emptiness of mentality extremely clarifying in regards to what is worth progressing with and what is worth letting pass by.

 

What are you looking forward to?

I have a couple of family weddings coming up and my most treasured time is with my family so I am really looking forward to spending time with my loved ones. Alternatively, working on projects that encompass an international audience and having the ability to gage a sense of values and understanding of different societal conditioning.

Is there something you have read, seen or listened to recently that stuck with you?

Recently, I have been watching a lot of Terrence Malick films and admire his heroisation of nature and natural cycles. I watched Tree Of Life for the third or fourth time and pick up something different every time – the way he communicates the importance of nature and embracing natural cycles and human emotions has stuck with me. Also, Kenya Hara’s ‘White’ – “Emptiness does not mean ‘nothing-ness’ or ‘energy-less’, rather it indicates a condition of having the potential to be filled whilst existing in a transitional state.” and Marcus Aurelius’s ‘Meditations’ – “Nature’s aim for everything includes its cessation just as much as its beginning and its duration – like someone throwing up a ball. How can it be good for the ball on the way up and bad on the way down, or even when it hits the ground? How can it be good for a bubble when it forms, and bad when it bursts?” A lot of these philosophies have enabled me to embrace change and decay in my own life, and of where I choose to place value.

See more from Alana here.


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