Steel Yard Blog :: Arts in Mind Festival and Moth Radio event in NYC read more »

Steel Yard Blog :: Grant Opportunity from RISCA read more »

Steel Yard Blog :: Apply for a ceramics residency at the Lawrence Arts Center read more »

Yardie Interviews → Alison Purwinis



Alison Purwinis

Alison Purwinis: Ceramics Cooperative Coordinator

Hometown: Preston, CT

Biggest Pet Peeve: In The studio, people not picking up after themselves. Also, bad drivers. 


What made you get involved with The Steel Yard?

It was actually really struggling trying to find a studio space after I graduated that would fit my needs. Everything that I looked at seemed to be expensive, really small with limited access. Two of my Roller Derby teammates actually recommended that I check this place out, when I was explaining my frustration to them. They were like ‘oh well, you should try The Steel Yard!’ This was back in December, and I actually came and toured the facilities and really liked the space. I thought it would be a good fit for me, so I applied for the Coordinator position, and got it!


Can you talk a little bit about your artistic background?

I went to Hartford Art School, University of Hartford. I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts. During that time I studied with Walter Hall and Matt Towers in the Ceramics Department. Then after I graduated in 2009-2010, I went to University of Colorado at Boulder and did a year Post Baccalaureate study with Jimmy Quinn, Kim Dickey and Scott Chamberlain. These are all pretty well known artists in the ceramics world and I’ve respected their work a lot. To have studied under them was pretty cool, a little nerve raking, but a real privilege! It was fun! Now, I’m trying to figure out the next move and…it looks like it’s going to be here! 


What’s your favorite thing about working with Clay? 

I used to be more focused on wheel throwing, but I started doing larger scale sculptural mix-media pieces. I’ve been sculpting animals and putting them into scenarios that I make by collecting different fabrics and found furniture. You can walk into these scenes and be part of the space. I also make cameo frames out of clay and for each frame I make a footprint of every building I ever lived in, they looked like the cameos that you would see old Victorian ladies wearing. I also make a lot of small scale pieces as well, I would have to say it also depends on where I am living at the moment, my relation to the space, and how I am feeling.


What’s your favorite tool?

My favorite tool… I really like the rasp, it’s used mostly for plasterwork. It shaves the clay off in an even way and it creates a nice smooth surface. It looks like a cheese grater (Laughing); I like a serrated rib too; I really like slipping and scoring and getting a smooth surface that way. 


Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I think what drew me to clay was its tangible quality, it seems very primal. I think you have control of every aspect of it. You make the clay and the glazes, like a painter you can make your own paint by finding the right pigments. I’m really drawn by that aspect. I guess I am inspired, not so much by other artists but more from the things that are around me. I get vey inspired by song lyrics that make me think ‘oh I am going to make a piece about that!’ I am also very big into collecting things and fabrics from the 60’s 70’s and sometimes if I get inspired by a pattern I try to manipulated on a pot, or something like that… I’m all over! (Laughing).


I hear that you are also part of the Providence Roller Derby, and also into ceramics… Can you talk about those two? 

I think they are both very physical. When you are in the studio working you are not just sketching on a pad or with a pencil; you’ll probably have to knead the clay and throw on the wheel. It’s a very physical process, just like roller-derby and rolling skating is, you definitely get a good workout! But… I think being in the studio is more private and intimate, when you are on the track with your teammates is very loud and you have to communicate, and work together and when you are in the studio, it’s more my time. I can do what I want to do… put on my headphones and just zone out. There are times that I don’t even notice you been in the studio for four hours or something like that (Laughing).


What’s your Roller-Derby Name and when can I cheer for you next? 

My Roller-Derby name is… Freaking Awesome! …Some people call me Freak for short. 


Although you are new to the Ceramics Cooperative, can you talk about that community a bit?

So far it seems pretty small, there are four women ranging from members who are undergraduates, to members who have been working for quite sometime. Overall it seems very small so far, but I would like to make it a little bit bigger, a little more involved, everybody is very self-sufficient. I am very exited to be here and to be working! I am so happy to be a part of it!



Alison Purwinis Tons Of Buns

Alison Purwinis, Tons of Buns