A warning, dear reader, don’t visit talented ceramicist Emma Alington’s web page, unless you have time to spare. Her ravishingly beautiful work evokes the best of 21st century designing, from the hand-blown bubbles on her ‘With a Twist’ collectibles to the gilded tints in the fairy-tale fantasy of her ‘Heritage Collection’. Emma’s creations are warm and rich with meaning and allusion, creating effortless wonders for the home. Yet, there is nothing ‘effortless’ about her techniques.
When it comes to keepsakes passed down through generations, sentiment becomes a tangible object, held in the hands of the recipient. Captured in Emma Alington’s signature style, Treniq shares a collection of her much-treasured objets d’art.
(‘With a Twist’ Collection and ‘The Heritage Collection’ – by Emma Alington)
T: – In your latest collections – ‘Heritage’ and ‘With a Twist’ you have married gold accents and bubble techniques with pure porcelain. How did you come upon such ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas?
EA: – A lot of my ideas are a result of my curiosity. Once I’ve had an initial idea – for example the bubble printing process onto ceramics – I find a way to apply that into a functional shape. I try and take a pattern or a process that people are familiar with, and turn it into something decorative and functional. I like to challenge people’s assumptions. I think the thing that drives me towards the ‘out of the box’ ideas is really striving to create original pieces.
T: – Describe your creative process. What goes into making each piece?
EA: – You don’t really have an option to rush things when dealing with ceramic. Every piece first comes to life as ball of porcelain, from my potter’s wheel. Then, after a slow drying process, they are fired at high temperatures to what’s called a ‘bisque’ stage. Then come the sanding process and painting the glaze on, and then some more glaze firing for about 30 hours! Usually, that would be the final stage in the making process. But with my Heritage Collection, for example, I then fire on the decorative transfer details and fire on the gold, which is carefully hand painted.
T: – What is the most precious piece in all your creations?
EA: – I tend to be very precious with all of my work, really. I find there’s a strong bridge between making something by hand in the studio, which is quite a lengthy process, and then passing it on to the consumers. It’s a very different ball game compared to purchasing a piece of ceramic which has been mass-produced in a factory. If I had to pick one piece though? It’s probably the bespoke toast rack which I made as a commission for a client last Christmas – I made two, one as a spare, and I now use it as a letter stand on my desk. It’s a great realization to see how unintentionally multi-functional something I’ve made can be.
(Left: Emma Alington in her workshop; Top-Right: Early bubble tests for With A Twist collection; Bottom-Right: Early test pieces for With A Twist collection)
When marrying out-of-the-box ideas with shapeless clay, a plain white porcelain base is the perfect canvas upon which to show off a masterpiece. We know that playing safe is quite frankly tedious; this is why Emma, driven by an unquenchable fervour for life, pairs ceramics with form and functionality to design gilded dreams for the home.
T: – Who or what is the inspiration for your creations?
EA: – I’m inspired by things or people around me. One thing very important to me when designing new pieces is to challenge people’s assumptions. When it’s time to come up with a new piece for a collection, or if I need to build up new ideas, it’s the most fun stage of the process. I’m lucky to have such creative freedom, so to play around in the studio testing out new ideas/ new designs is so exciting. Things do go wrong, but I just have to trust my gut feeling and hope I get it right. So far, this strategy is working!
T: – When and where are you most creative? What’s your ideal work-space or mood for when you design?
EA: – My working environment and surroundings have always been hugely important to me. I think it can really affect my creative process. I work either in my studio, which is an old converted scout hut at the end of the garden, it’s very basic but I love it. Or I work in my indoor office (which stays clean and clay free). I keep both spaces really visually engaging. Working from home poses its challenges, my keeping it very much a creative space I haven’t yet been hit with ‘designers block’.
(Emma Alington’s studio desk)
T: – What is your earliest memory of ceramics?
EA: – I can remember in year 1 – when I was 5 – making a puffer fish out of clay. I still have it! (Not that it resembles a puffer fish at all!)
T: – What made you pursue a career in ceramic designing?
EA: – It’s been my dream for years to design my own products and to have my name stamped on the back. It was really only after the success of my graduate show at Central Saint Martins in the summer of 2013 that I realized it was possible, as people were asking for my work. Since then, I’ve been going all guns blazing to make it happen. So far, so good.
For Emma, ceramics are a symbol of her journey into adulthood. Riding high on the success of her graduate show at Central Saint Martin in 2013, there is no looking back for this young ceramicist.
(Emma Alington’s Heritage Collection- her first collection made for retail)
T: – As a young woman who has built such a successful brand, what are you most proud of?
EA: – It’s such a rewarding feeling to look back and see how my brand has grown in its first year – I’ve been lucky to gain a wide range of clients; from one off bespoke commissions, to working with restaurants, galleries and of course retailers. It’s very encouraging to get such good momentum at the early stage of setting up a business. That’s something I’m proud of.
T: – Tell us something about your logo. How did you come upon it?
EA: – My logo is something very personal to my branding – the crest and the coat of arms is actually my Alington Family heraldry, which dates back to the year 1966.
(Close-up of Emma’s logo on the Heritage Tray)
T: – Who is the ‘ideal’ person or ‘client’ for whom you design?
EA: – I’d hope that the people who my pieces appeal to are those who understand and appreciate the craftsmanship behind the products. A large part of being a ceramic designer-maker is conveying the work that has gone into each product. I also intend my pieces to appeal to those interested in design, style and interior accessories looking to add something unique to their home.
Tête-à-tête with Emma: Getting personal with the designer behind breath-taking creations.
T: -If you weren’t a ceramic designer you would be?
EA: – A florist.
T: – Describe yourself in three words?
EA: – Creative, ambitious, optimistic
T: – A little known fact about Emma…
EA: – I can make a cracking Espresso Martini
T: – What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
EA: – To realize that you can learn far more by making mistakes, than everything going perfectly first time. And, to always look at the bigger picture – keep looking ahead.
T: – Your biggest career highlight to date and why?
EA: – I think it’s having my work spotted from people out of my existing network. For example – I’ve just had my first order for a company based in Denmark with a shop called Unika:K. It’s almost like a nod of reassurance letting me know I’m doing something right.
T: – An addiction you never want to get over…
EA: – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. It’s my total weakness.
T: – And finally… What can we expect from you in 2015?
EA: – Lots of new things! I’m currently working on 3 new designs to join my ‘With A Twist’ collection. Playing around with scale and new colour. Lots of new things! My new designs will be on Treniq very soon. Watch this space for more!
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