Yardie Interviews → Alanna Green

reflections: The Steel Yard interviews a long time student

It's that time again! The Steel Yard is getting ready for its yearly hibernation. Building are being winterized, projects are wrapping up, the studios are getting their final cleanings, and courses are coming to a close one by one.

Even though we know thta things will get busy again in March, we always approach this time with a little sadness. Who better to brush away our mood than Alanna Green, a long-time Yardie who has seen the seasons change time and time again over the past six years. Alanna recently sat down with Sparkie to talk about old times.

  Alanna Green3

        Alanna Green: Student extraordinaire
: North Smithfield, RI
        If you were a luchador, what would your wrestling mask look like
        and what would your name be:
I’d want my mask to be purple,
        orange, and lime green because they’re my favorite colors. Part of me
        wants my outfit to be sweet and lovely, so that I’d be so deceiving that
        people wouldn’t know what to expect, and then I crunch them! I’d be
        called the ‘Sweet Intimidator!’


Sparkie: What first brought you to the Steel Yard?
Alanna Green: The first class that I took at the Steel Yard was a ceramics class. I’d never done any art in high school or college, so I thought ‘Hey, I’m going to take an art class!’ I’d never done ceramics before coming to the Steel Yard, and never anything involving the wheel.
Sparkie: And, I know you must have been inspired by the movie Ghost...
AG: Oh, yeah, who isn’t?!? I’m always hoping for that Patrick Swayze moment when I come to the Yard.

Sparkie: I looked over your course history, and you’ve taken a record number of classes ranging from welding, to jewelry, to ceramic classes. It seems like you’ve really gravitated to the ceramic department.
AG: I’ve taken welding workshops and a jewelry class, and loved them both, but these classes required a certain level of finesse that I don’t have. I also wanted to explore something with a more practical application. Clay is fun because you can do just about anything with it; you can play with it! I wasn’t very good when I first started taking classes, and I still don’t feel like I’m very good yet. But, it’s the one thing that I want to get better at because I can imagine making everything that I eat off of, or making awesome gifts for people. Plus, I really like Dave, and Nidal, and Patty, and Greg (ceramics cooperative members). I love the community that is in the clay department, it’s really solid.

Sparkie: You’ve talked about the practical application and being able to create things that you use every day like table setting, gifts, and such. Other than the utilitarian aspect what inspires in the ceramic studio?
AG: It’s normally the form. Form is important to me; as well as throwing and trimming, because I never get the form quite right while I’m throwing, so, I always do a lot of trimming. But, I could care less about glazing. I mean, I have a preference as to how the piece should look when their finished in terms of color; but, it’s the most dreaded process for me!
Sparkie: Why?
AG: It just takes a while, I’m not making anything new... So, in this class with Nidal (Tips, Tricks, and Open Studio), I did not glaze a single piece until the very last class. Not one! In every class, Nidal would be like ‘You’ve got a lot of stuff to glaze over here!’ And I would just say ‘Okay, but I’m not glazing tonight!’ What I’ve been focusing on this semester, specifically, has been throwing bigger things, plates, platters, and low bowls.  So, it’s been more about the shape and the form.
Sparkie: I imagine it’s difficult to bring the clay out from being centered on the wheel.
AG: Yeah, it’s not easy to bring the clay out and keep it low, in my opinion. It also takes a lot of strength to bring clay out versus moving it up and making something tall.

Sparkie: Do you have anything from the first couple of classes that you took? So, can you compare those objects versus the current objects that you’ve made?
AG: They’re awful!  (laughing) Everything from the first class is probably not centered, but has character. Every piece is really heavy and could be used as a weapon! Most pieces now are at least the same width, which is great. They’re still a little bottom-heavy, but that’s a style choice. And, I can always trim a lot!

Sparkie: I was going to ask you what your favorite ceramic process is, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s trimming?
AG: I do like trimming, it’s true!
Alanna Green2
Sparkie: Do you have a favorite tool?
AG: One of the other ceramics kids, Frankie, once showed me how to use dry cleaning bags to finish the rim of your bowl. It’s super soft, so it you don’t get a piece of it caught by pulling too fast, it creates a really nice finish along the top. I love that tool! I also started throwing on bats, love it! So, a bat gets screwed onto a wheel, instead of wire trimming something off the wheel and using the fork lifters, you just take the bat off and let it sit. So, the majority of the work that I made this semester, I threw on a bat and wouldn’t even wire trim it. As long as I compressed it enough on the bottom, it would easily detach once it started to dry. So, the bat is my new favorite thing! It also makes the process quicker; you’re rocking and rolling!


Sparkie: This was the first time that Tips, Tricks and Open Studio was offered at the Steel Yard, how did it work for you?
Awesome! Because I had taken five classes already at that point, and the Wheel Generated Form class offers the same skills time and time again. Dave reviews all the basics so that everyone that’s in there, because he always has new students, all know how to throw and how to center. It’s hard to not pay attention because you don’t want to set the precedent for other students that it’s not important to watch the demos. And I listen, but don’t really need to. So, having this class where I can just go into the studio and work, and if I have questions or need advice, the instructor’s there. Plus, Nidal knew all of us pretty quickly and what our goals were, so he could give us specific tips and tricks for what we were doing.
It was also cool to see what other people were doing who have had more time in the studio. For instance, there were two women in our class who were hand building everything. They were making gorgeous pots, creating patterns on the clay, and you wouldn’t necessarily see that in a beginner class.
Sparkie: I feel like this class was an intermediary between course time and the cooperative, and maybe because everybody is doing something a little different, it helps the students work inform each other.
Yes! That’s exactly what was happening. It was neat to see what everyone was doing because it definitely had an impact on what I was working on.
I’ve been learning about the size of things to throw, and trying to remain functional and practical. One of the things that Nidal and I have talked about is the difference between beginner and intermediate is when you sit down to the wheel, and what your intention is. Do you have an intention as to what the piece of clay that you’ve just centered will become? And that is something that I did not have until the end of the most recent summer class that I took. It was never a part of my thought process before; I would just hope that I could make something!

Sparkie: Although you seem to be at the Yard quite a bit, what do you do with yourself when you’re not here?
I work. A lot. I’m getting acclimated to a new job, working in supply chain management. I’m the person that does marketing, communications, and branding. It’s actually fun!, because you get to decide what the company’s exterior face looks like for the indefinite future. It’s a practical version of creativity in the corporate setting.
Alanna Green1
Sparkie: It seems like you have a pretty stressful job that takes up a lot of your time. How does your course time at the Steel Yard play into that?
The Steel Yard is where I get to play; it’s like a sand box! You get to come in and play with things that don’t have purpose, or they do. I don’t have to be practical, where I can come and be creative but don’t have to worry about having an end goal. The other reason why I come to the Steel Yard is because I want to be around creative, like-minded people. And the Steel Yard, in and of itself, is worth coming to just for those people.

Sparkie: You’re pretty invested in the ceramics department, what is it about that department that continually draws you in?
The ceramics department definitely has a core, and from that core, they’re a great vibe in every class.

Sparkie: How would you describe the atmosphere of the ceramics department?
It’s productive fun! Nothing is ever too serious in that department, and people are still making great work and moving forward.

Sparkie: Now, you started taking classes in 2006, and have been involved with the Yard consistently since then. What are some of the noticeable changes that you’ve witnessed over the years?
Oh my gosh, really!?! I’ve been hanging around the Yard for six years? Wow! Well, I love that there is an outside space that gets used. When you talk about making a place a community, it needs to have different types of space and the Steel Yard has that.  It’s easy now to step out of the studio on a summer night, and to still feel connected to the studio.


Sparkie: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
No problem!