Following on from our Scoop on scoops, LFW learnt of another project by gold and silversmith artist Alison Jackson, who undertook the ultimate challenge of designing and making ‘10 Vessels in 10 Days’. By Wendy Johnson
Tucked away in her fully functioning studio, Alison Jackson makes tinkering sounds—falling somewhere between bells and glass crystal singing—as she hand raises her objects using stakes and hammers.
These are the words of Mel George, who has curated a new solo exhibition by Canberra’s gold and silversmith Alison Jackson. The words describe perfectly how this young gold and silversmith works. And they describe what happened over 10 days in April when Alison challenged herself to create one vessel per day. Alison wasn’t working to a deadline set by anyone other than herself for 10 Vessels in 10 Days, and the results of the challenge forms part of Alison’s Table Tools exhibition, on now at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre.
“It’s a project I had wanted to do for some time. I set myself the challenge of creating one vessel each day, all within working hours. Some days were busier than others. Some days I was tired and some days I really focused and could spend a lot of time on a vessel,” says Alison. “So each vessel has its own character about it.” But why pursue such a high-pressure project?
“It was an avenue for me to explore different ideas and processes ticking over in my head, a sort of three-dimensional sketch if you like,” says the artist.
For this series, Alison worked in both fine silver and copper. She created the vessels using a technique that has changed little over the centuries. She started each with a flat sheet, sinking it into a hollow of a tree stump to give the metal some shape. Each sheet was then annealed—heated to a critical temperature that returns the metal to its soft state so it can be worked again.
Next came the raising process. “Raising is a traditional silversmithing technique, which is a becoming a dying art. It’s intensely time consuming and labour intensive, but is also an incredibly rewarding process,” Alison says. “It’s amazing what you can achieve with a sheet of metal and a hammer. Each day I began with a rough sketch, a scribble on a piece of paper or sometimes just an idea in my head. As the day progressed so too did the vessel. Some ideas changed and evolved through the making process and it became apparent that I needed to be open to these changes.”
But how did Alison deal with the perfectionist burning within, given the time constraints and challenges she set herself for the project?
“Often things didn’t quite turn out how I wanted, drill bits broke in the vessel, shapes weren’t quite as I thought they would be and holes weren’t always centred. It was a challenge to work with these hiccups and still complete pieces I was happy with. Where I usually would re-make a piece, I actually needed to persevere and work with these bumps in the road to achieve a result at the end of the day,” she says.
In the end, Alison has developed a special relationship with the set of 10 vessels and is over the moon with the results, saying, ‘they’re quite playful and interesting—each with its own character—perhaps shaped by my thoughts on the day’.
Many bowls in the set are roughly the size of a hand. Some are polished, while in others the patinas contrast with the silver. In some, steel wire—normally only used to secure an object while being made—is used as a feature on the finished work.
Alison works full-time out of her own fully equipped silversmithing workshop, called Pocket Studio. She studied at the Australian National University of Art, Gold and Silversmithing Workshop and spent six months studying in Germany at the University of Applied Sciences, Gemstone and Jewellery Design in Idar-Oberstein. She has exhibited throughout Australia and Germany.
Alison has also just produced two new lines of jewellery, available at Agency, Ori Building, Braddon, along with some of Alison’s more permanent retail range of tableware and cutlery. You can explore Alison’s work on her new website http://www.alisonjackson.com.au
All vessel photographs by Angela Bakker
Table Tools, including 10 Vessels in 10 Days runs from 11 September to 24 October at Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, Level 1, North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra City. Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday 12 pm to 4 pm