Yardie Interviews → Dave Allyn

March 30th, 2010 - Sparkie Interview with Dave Allyn, Ceramics Cooperative Fellow 2010

Dave Allyn was a driving force that got the Steel Yard ceramics department started about six years ago.  He’s been involved at the Steel Yard in many forms over the years, and now we’re pleased to announce that he has been selected as the Ceramics Cooperative Fellow for 2010.

Sparkie met up with Dave on a sunny winter afternoon at his Thirsty Gallery 104 to find out more about the ceramist and long time Steel Yard artist.

Steel Yard: How and when did you first get involved at the Steel Yard?
Dave Allyn:
In 2003 I met Steel Yard founder, Nick Bauta, and was working on the Urban Agricultural Unit.  The 27 Sims site had just been purchased by the founders, and we worked in a small easement while Providence Steel & Iron still occupied most of the site.  It was a way different place back then, there were miles and miles of steel everywhere.

I later met founder Clay Rockefeller and director at the time Peter Eiermann.  We had a conversation about plans for the Steel Yard and how to incorporate ceramics.  Everybody was gung-ho and super excited for the possibility.   Peter was really interested in promoting all industrial arts and planting the seed for ceramics that I think also helped bring glass and light metals.

Over the next summer I brought a bunch of ceramics equipment back from Wisconsin and got the studio started.

SY: How do you expect the Cooperative Coordinator position coming up to be different from your position early on in the shop?
Back then it was really hands-on, but very wild-west style.  There was lots of madness.  Now it’s a little bit more controlled chaos, which is exciting to be involved in as well.   It was definitely fun in the beginning, but I think the direction the Steel Yard and ceramics department are heading in is much more sustainable.  I’m excited to get back into a directing role and make some more community connections.

SY: How did the ceramics program function when it first began?
We started out with a small membership based group for shop access, then we added classes and more and more people got involved. The first steps in getting the studio running were building a community of ceramists and gaining tools to make the shop desirable.  With the equipment and a functioning department, the people came easier.

SY: How many spaces are available this year for residents?
We have six spaces available, and we are full for the year.  I notified all of the residents just the other week of their acceptance.  I keep a little extra space available for current instructors who may want to store work that is made during classes and experimentation.

SY: Have most of this year’s residents been involved at the Steel Yard before?
We have a couple new faces this term, about two thirds are returning and a third of our residents are new to the cooperative this year.  Two of the new residents have taken classes at the Steel Yard in the past, and are now getting back into it.

SY: What is it about the Steel Yard Cooperative that brings residents back?
DA: I think they see beyond the dirty finger nails, and fall in love with the place.

SY: Some residents come with years of experience.  Do you think that adds to the attraction for residents without that background?
DA: Absolutely.  I think it’s fantastic how everyone gives and takes.  You get to pick up skills by seeing how everyone does different parts of each process.  I think it adds to the learning environment.

SY: How do you think the Steel Yard program differs from other cooperatives?
DA: There’s a raw energy at the Steel Yard that once tapped can be wonderful.  A lot of other spaces are more restrictive, maybe more craft focused, and don’t lead to creative exploration.  Here it’s nice because you can walk through the blacksmithing department and see a whole new art form, for example.

SY: A class you offered, Heavy Metal Ceramics, comes to mind.
DA: Yeah, the Steel Yard offers an interesting opportunity to teach a class like that.  I don’t think you’d be able to find that anywhere else.

SY: Do you have any teaching plans this year?
I’m teaching courses two nights a week this term and working with Dave Sharp to try and offer some adult daytime classes as well in wheel throwing and image transfer on ceramics, including screen printing and a few types of decals.

SY: How did your decal work come about?
It’s something I picked up at RISD.  When it was fresh, one of my professors was working with the process.  Consumer electronics became available that could print iron oxide, like a check routing number printer.  It required some security clearance to get one, but we started using it on ceramics.  Soon the technology became even more available with the toner cartridges in laser printers.

SY: What do you think of this analogy? Andy Warhol is to the factory as Dave Allyn is to the Steel Yard.
Yeah, I love it!  Or, maybe it should be what Unkle Thirsty is to the Steel Yard, though.

SY: Do you ever wonder what percentage of Providence is drinking out of your cups?
I have no idea, but I love seeing them around.  I’ve been making about a hundred cups a year for 4 or 5 years.

SY: For a resident at the Yard, are there good venues for selling their work?
It’s wonderfully organic.  That’s the best thing about having a ceramic community.  Word of mouth is the best way to find out about most art sales and opportunities.  Being in a community like this is the best way to get your work out there in a sale,  group show or solo show.  We’re hoping to have a venue as the Steel Yard develops for ceramics sales.  Cooperative fundraising led to our first computer controlled kiln which is now up and running.

SY: What does that offer?
Push button convenience for the operator, and more energy efficiency for the studio.

SY: Any advice for someone interested in trying out ceramics?
Take a class!

SY: You live next door in Monohasset, but your residence is a little more than just that, right?
I moved in to Monohasset in the summer of 2005, and yeah, my home is also a part-time gallery.  I’m going with ‘Thirsty’s Gallery 104’ for now.  I try and do an art show every quarter, maybe more during nicer weather.  I gotta give a shout-out to Tom West who made me really nice sign for the space.

SY: What’s next for you?
I’ve got a solo show at a gallery called Sintra in Sweden and I’m leaving in a week.  I have to thank a past ceramics resident Chris Vicini for the Swedish connection.

SY: Thirsty Theater was a favorite Steel Yard event.  Any plans for that again?
I think there’s a place at the Steel Yard for that, and I’m excited to help out with something like it again.

SY: Final Thoughts?
To the future!

(We cheers with a pair of Dave’s own ceramic cups)