As an admitted fan girl of Alexandra Dodds, I jumped at the chance to visit her Auckland studio and getting the opportunity to meet the maker behind the unique and extensive jewellery range I had always viewed from afar!
Allie began her studies in Dunedin studying a Bachelor of Arts, or as she describes it, a couple of years of “mish mash”. She then attended Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Fine Arts in 2008. Her work whilst studying was predominantly sculpture and installation based, which we can see reflected in her jewellery. Each unique piece is made by hand, imitating elements of the natural world, most obviously in shape and texture. Following graduation, Allie then spent three years in Wellington teaching herself casting in a small studio before heading off to travel America and Europe for the six months.
While on her travels, Allie did an intense one week casting course through Coopgold at Planet Modulor in Berlin. Planet Modular is a huge art shop with attached studios and also hosts many workshops for all types of creative fields. After her travels, she then returned home briefly before starting to make her jewellery full time in Vancouver.
Allie has recently returned home and is currently working from her Ponsonby studio, which is part of the glamorous Miss Crabb workroom (where Miss Crabb mascot, Moon keeps a close eye on her).
So before she shoots off across the ditch to Sydney and the Aussies try and claim her too, I asked her a few questions about her journey thus far, her future plans and of course her all important advice to us creative students and graduates.
This one is for all of you fellow creativites that love to make, mould and construct things!
What is your biggest influence in your work?
My work is heavily informed by the geometries, shapes and textures of the natural world, but I also work purely from imagination and experimentation. I’m pretty internal and I get a lot of inspiration from my materials as I am working with them.
What is your working process? How do you get your “creative juices” flowing?
I don’t plan things too extensively.. I think all my previous study from fine arts school and interests find their way into the work quite intuitively. I might start with an aspect of something I have been interested in – being an organic object, texture or a gemstone, and then simply begin to play with it in three dimensions until it transforms and becomes something.
Casting my carvings and sculptures into metal is another transformative process, and love seeing the transition from a disposable tactile material into something more precious and permanent.
The sales and marketing side has been the biggest challenge for me. I find it hard to ‘sell’ my own work, but also think that coming from a fine arts background I find it difficult to get my head around commercialising my art, but think I have found a good balance of keeping everything handmade within my studio, of limited numbers.
I feel very fortunate to be surviving off my art, and also being able to travel so much while doing it. While living in Berlin for a couple of months, I attended an intensive metal casting course.. and in Copenhagen I visited a lot of amazing galleries and studios, constantly getting soaking up inspiration from the diverse architecture and landscapes. Travelling has almost come a part of the job now, I have been to New York and Italy twice to exhibit and have plans to show my collections in Paris in the future.
You started working full-time while in Vancouver. How do you think affected your brand compared to if you were in New Zealand?
I had some great opportunities while living in Vancouver. Being so close to the US, I had the opportunity to exhibit in New York and picked up a couple of American stockists. I found a great studio in Vancouver with two other jewellers who were all running their own businesses. One had studied in business, the other in technical jewellery, and me in fine arts. We all had very different strengths, aesthetics and markets, so it was a great balance where we bounced ideas off each other and help each other out. We regularly had an open studio to the public where they could come in and try on/buy pieces directly from us. I think this time in the Vancouver studio was really valuable having that support network.
What was the best piece of advice you received about the “real world” while you were studying?
The one piece I remember was an during an artist talk with Kate Newby… and she said to keep making… just keep on making.
I am moving to Sydney in a month to ‘settle’ a little after traveling and moving so much over the last four years. As much as I have loved moving around, I am looking forward to more of a permanent set up and getting to know the community around me. Moving forward I want to focus and push the custom jewellery side of my practice. It is probably my favorite part.. as individuals some pieces would never have been imagined, but collaborating together beautiful and unexpected things can be created. I also have future dreams to open a my own little gallery/showroom space full of beautiful objects and an in-house studio.