Other Investigations: Allison Wade

Allison Wade recently received her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has been previously featured on Make Space (here). Take a look into her process and some recent works!

On collecting and process:

I have a hard time thinking in big picture terms, so I tend to accumulate smaller ideas and materials knowing (or hoping) they will eventually add up to something. I keep little notepads in my bag, in my studio, on my desk, and next to my bed. I eventually revisit the scraps and transfer what’s on them to another document or throw them away. I often refer back to images I’ve shot on trips. I enjoy being a tourist and unabashedly taking pictures of everything – like this playground equipment and steam pipes in Helsinki.

On studio approaches:

I generally work on multiple things at once. The last few months I have been focusing on making/firing/glazing lots of ceramic pieces and on weaving as much as possible, since I’m not sure when I’ll have access to these facilities again. I have no idea how these objects will come together, but I am excited about getting everything back to my studio and playing around. I’ve tried planning things out before, but when I do the work seems stale.

Allison Wade Allison Wade

On materials and medium:

I’ve been working with wood, ceramics, steel, fabric — essentially creating a stockpile of my own hand-made found objects. I am constantly thinking about the material properties of each of these elements. How far can I stretch that fabric before it rips? What material juxtapositions are unexpected?

On research:

Recently I’ve been looking at people who make designed objects. I ran across this designer Tomas Alonso who is producing lamps and chairs that look like the sculptures I am making/want to make. I’ve also been researching southern African American quilting traditions. I’m interested in the space where function and art meet or don’t meet.

A friend just gave me this amazing catalogue of the collaborations between Jean Tinguely and Robert Rauschenberg that I am completely obsessed with. And I always come back to Nabakov’s short stories. I can read them over and over.


On space and site:

Geographical location completely influences me. For the most part I don’t work site-specifically, but I gather materials and ideas from wherever I am. I started using natural wood and branches after spending time at residencies surrounded by trees. I have been commuting to downtown Chicago on the train for the last three years, past Graceland and Cubs stadium, and since I can’t read while moving, I spend the time looking and thinking. I’ve noticed an influence on forms I am making, and my palette has shifted towards browns/grays with spots of colors.

I didn’t realize how important negative space was to my work until I had to fight for it recently. It IS part of the work. I consider it a material. I’ve noticed the different reaction I get when someone sees a piece in my studio versus a gallery/empty space. Since the small decisions and details are essential, eliminating peripheral distractions serves the sculpture best. It’s the spatial equivalent of a little black dress.