An interview with Allistair CovellAn interview with Allistair CovellAn interview with Allistair CovellAn interview with Allistair Covell

An interview with Allistair Covell

Allistair Covell is an award winning contemporary surface designer with a background in fine art, fashion and printed textiles. Allistair’s creative practice is an exploration of colour and pattern with a focus on creating hand-knotted rugs and textile artworks for the interior industry. Allistair joined Design-Nation recently and will be part of the Design-Nation group stand at Decorex 2017.

Design-Nation: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

AC: I feel very fortunate to be surrounded  by people who are both inspirational and encouraging, from those who have had a positive influence on me in the past from tutors at college through to artists and designers whom I currently share a studio with.

Whilst at university I had the fantastic opportunity to work with Zandra Rhodes, who is not only a design icon but also a childhood hero of mine so it was incredibly surreal and exciting to have met her. Although Zandra was never really a mentor, I learnt so much from working closely with her and to this day I still follow her advice on the methodology of working, design techniques and thought processes. 

DN: What inspires you?

AC: Music is my biggest inspiration and as a synaesthete my work is heavily inspired by my sensory responses to sound and colour. My current practice is centred on the exploration of how music can be interpreted and illustrated on to a surface. The paintings I create on canvas and paper are visually recording the rhythms, movements and characteristics found within music; described through the use of expressive brush strokes, vibrant colours and ambiguous shapes. I then start the process of selecting which painting, whether drawn by hand or on the iPad, will be developed into hand-knotted rugs and carpets, finely crafted in Afghanistan and Nepal by master weavers.

DN: If you weren't an artist what would you be?

AC: I think had fate not stepped in when it did and I was presented with the opportunity to design the surface pattern on a rug, I might have returned to university and, using the skills I learnt studying fashion and textile design, retrained to become a costume or set designer. Looking back towards the end of my fashion degree the garments and illustrations I was creating where definitely becoming more theatrical than commercial.

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?

AC: I still feel like I am starting out so at present I do all my own PR work, which includes taking photographs and writing. I am slowly getting to grips with social media! I haven’t as yet actively sought outside assistance on marketing but having recently become a member of Design-Nation, alongside having a studio with Digswell Arts for a number of years, I am slowly building my creative community and extending my networks. I feel my practice is growing in confidence and I am in a better position to introduce my work to a larger audience.   

DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?

AC: Working across two different design disciplines can be quite a challenge, especially from a technical point of view. Sometimes not everything painted can be easily translated into a rug. Certain brush strokes might prove on occasion to be too complex to convert smoothly into a hand-woven knot, but the Afghan and Nepalese weavers accept the challenge head on and the results are amazing. One new rug resembles the original artwork so closely that you would think that the design wasn’t hand-knotted but actually drawn on the surface by hand using a thick paintbrush.

Another challenge is the length of time it takes to physically make a rug, which can take up to three months owing to the traditional methods and techniques used. Even though this can come as a surprise to people, I see this as a positive challenge and an example of slow design. This is best shown in my rug Rhythm where its surface patterns are based on an iPad drawing, created in minutes but crafted over a period of months. From my own experience the feeling of waiting in anticipation for a rug to arrive is part of the experience and builds excitement - reminding us that the finer things in life take time to create.

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

AC: Thinking ahead about the next ten years is a bit of a daunting concept as I feel like I have only just begun on this path as a rug designer, having come from a background in fine art and textiles. Hopefully I will continue to grow as an artist and designer, questioning and pushing what I can achieve and also what can be achieved within the carpet design industry. I would feel honoured if in years to come my work is synonymous with words like colour, quality and timelessness, and if my aesthetic becomes distinctive enough to be recognisable at first glance.

DN: If you could collaborate with someone new, who would you like that to be? 

AC: I have always loved the theatre and attending pop concerts, greatly admiring the hard work that is involved in their production, from the set designs through to the costumes and choreography. If there was ever the possibility or opportunity of collaborating with a musician, a lighting or a set designer on a project that would be an exciting challenge. 

Recently I have begun to experiment with creating mini three-dimensional paintings using plasticine. These have transformed how I look at form and shape and apart from inspiring a new rug collection; the possibilities of where I could take these are potentially endless as I could collaborate with architects or even furniture designers to create sculptural installations or products. 

I am in the very early stages of a possible collaboration with a ceramic artist and we are working on a joint project that potentially involves developing the plasticine sculptures to become ceramic objects. It will be interesting to see how this develops, what we learn from each other as we come from different artistic disciplines and how each other’s practice could influence our own work in the future.

Interview by Laura Jacometti. Images courtesy the artist.

Allistair’s work will be on show at Design-Nation, stand F17, at Decorex 2017, Syon Park, West London, 17-20 September

 

Posted on
08.08.2017

An interview with Ceramicist Hannah Tounsend

An interview with Ceramicist Hannah Tounsend

Hannah Tounsend is a ceramicist/printmaker and winner of the One Year On award at New Designers in 2016. Her practice combines ceramics and printmaking, to create collections of sensitively realised vessel forms and subtly layered mono prints. Hannah was part of the Design-Nation London Craft Week 2017 exhibition at the Oxo Gallery at the Southbank and recently had a beautiful solo exhibition at The National Centre for Craft & Design.

Design-Nation: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

Hannah Tounsend: I have worked with so many people over the years who have influenced and inspired me in different ways. However, in terms of my current work, my MA tutor and glass artist Angela Thwaites really pushed me to broaden the boundaries of both how I worked and the perspective with which I viewed my practice. Many of the memorable descriptions and metaphors she used to discuss ideas have stayed with me.

DN: If you weren't a ceramicist/printmaker what would you be?

HT: I think probably an architect - this would combine well my interest in the aesthetics of living spaces with my greed for technical knowledge and the challenge of problem solving.

DN: What inspires you?

HT: My inspiration is based in the sea washed surfaces and layered landscape of the British coastline. Primarily these are the shorelines of Cornwall and Sussex, but I have also really enjoyed exploring new coastal areas as the result of commissioned work. It is important to me that my work is rooted in a specific place and I layer subtle, abstract references to that shore within the pieces I make.   

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?  

HT: I am definitely not a natural when it comes to PR - I find that my best results have come from working with organisations that are much better at promoting my work than I am. The British Ceramic Biennial, the Crafts Council and New Designers have all given a big boost to my profile. I’ve also found that communities such as Design-Nation have been really valuable in introducing my work to new customer bases.

DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?

HT: Time management is a big challenge for me. Balancing the competing demands of making, and managing the more administrative side of my business is a skill I have yet to completely master. I work hard to keep my studio time free from actual and digital interruptions as I find I need to lose myself in the making process to produce my best pieces. The previous studio I worked in was buried in the West Sussex countryside and had no phone or wifi signal at all. I found this isolation of real value and have tried to replicate this in my new studio setting.

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?  

HT: I have recently started to produce large installation pieces that tie together my ceramic and print work in a single artwork. I would definitely like to see my practice expanding further into this area in the future. 

I will also be focussing on really pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved using the ceramic hybrid-making method I have developed. I find extending and perfecting the forms and scale at which I can create my vessel pieces to be an ongoing and hugely exciting element of my work.

Interview by Laura Jacometti. Images courtesy the artist.

 

Hannah is currently working in two different workshops - her own and the ceramics studio at her local university for two different Ceramic Biennials in September.

Hannah is working on a large scale commission piece for the British Ceramic Biennial that has required an assistant and access to very large kilns and other facilities. She will display this new work in the atmospheric former Spode Factory in Stoke-on-Trent (23 Sept-5 Nov). Hannah is also exhibiting her ceramic vessels at 'Atelier Michelle Dethurens' for the Parcours Céramique Carougeois in Geneva. She will be giving a talk and demonstration about her work as part of the festival (16-24 Sept).

Posted on
20.07.2017