Kindred Tales | Alice Johnson & Pottery Pets
Evoking a sense of joy, humour and nostalgia is central to ceramic artist Alice Johnson. Through a playful use of colour, shape and form, Alice aims to tell a story with each of her pieces. Her truly distinctive artistry lies in her hand-built pieces, our favourite being her Pottery Pets. Each a unique representation of a real treasured pet, Alice’s ceramic cats and dogs become representations of the bond between human and animal.
We chatted to Alice about her work and the inspiration behind Pottery Pets along with her love of dogs.
Tell us a bit about your work and why you became a Ceramic Artist?
I studied illustration at The University of Brighton and was useless at the digital aspect of it so started working with air drying clay and that was much more up my street. There’s something about the tactility of clay that I fell in love with, taking a drawing and bringing it to life with clay brings me a lot of joy. Also having something that will withstand the test of time, something to be treasured, it’s real and you can hold it rather than just pixels on a screen. Think especially as we spend so much time just scrolling in the digital world, it’s so important to have meaningful objects in real life.
What inspires your work?
My main aim with all aspects of my work is to put a smile on peoples’ faces and bring them joy in what often feels like a joyless world. We have such a bond with our pets, especially in the last couple of years in the pandemic, so if my little sculptures can brighten someone’s day then my job is done. Also having something that is personal and completely unique fuels my work – I hope I am able to capture their essence in some way so that the owner gets a sense of their pet in pottery form. People sometimes say why don’t you just make some “generic pets” so can sell them but that kind of defeats the object of my work, all about the one offs. I have also met some wonderful people through the pets and fellow creatives it’s so lovely to feel a part of something.
What’s your earliest memory of dogs being in your life?
I have had been around dogs since I was small, first a spaniel called Lucy who apparently would hover around the bottom of my highchair waiting for food to be dropped. Do not drop food now that’s for sure! Then after Lucy had two very naughty spaniels called Poppy and Jessie who I remember would play tug of war with my school tights and would cause general mayhem. They very sadly died in 2016 and still miss them so much. I owe them a lot too as they were the first pottery pets that I made in a pottery class in 2015.
If you could be a dog for the day which breed would you choose to be and why?
Found this question very difficult I must say. I think Spaniels are my favourite breed as that’s what I’ve always known and would be nice to know what it’s like to have that much energy. However, would be quite fun to be a proper pampered pooch, maybe a Corgi to get an insider scoop of what really goes on in the palace. Or maybe a dog that belongs to a chef – get lots of tasty treats, I am sure. Or maybe a sausage dog as your step count would be incredible. The jury is still out.
Favourite all time place to go for a long walk?
I am originally from Stroud in Gloucestershire so there are lots of walks around there that are very close to my heart. There’s lots of commons with amazing views put always feels a bit bittersweet now as don’t have a dog at the moment and long walks without a dog isn’t quite the same. Also love coastal walks, one of my biggest regrets studying at a seaside town was not making the most of the great walks, too busy being a student I think! Did walk on the South Downs sometimes though which are breath-taking, however do remember being chased by cows though. Long walks with a pub at the end are always a bonus.
What exciting projects are you working on this year?
Just continuing with Pottery Pets – I would love to make some more obscure pets, have just been asked to make a cow – really push the pet boundaries, more reptiles and birds. I draw the line at tarantulas, however.
I also have been thinking a lot recently about dogs around lockdown and the puppy boom and it doesn’t sit right with me that I am ultimately profiting off people owning pets and there is a bigger problem going on of lots of unwanted dogs. I would love to do more work with giving something back and raising awareness of this. I know there is a risk of getting a rescue dog but it’s so heart breaking to know there are so many without homes. I spend a lot of my time at looking at dogs who need rehoming and falling in love with them but sadly not in a position at the moment to own a dog but hopefully one day soon and would love it to be a rescue. So watch this space, very much at the thinking stage currently.