Playful, fetishistic, product-like pieces by Alice Woods get better and better the more you sit with them. Dripping ice cream cones bring to mind endless summers and memories of childhood, mixed with unsettling pop imagery of bombs and grenades, or suggestions of adult toys. More of her marvelous 3D printed mixed media work can be found at the links following this super interview!
+ + +
First, can you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and where are you based now?
Hello <3 My name is Alice Woods, I am from the North East of England, and I moved to London seven years ago. I make sculptures and installations with plastics, resins and 3D printing processes.
Can you remember the first moment you "discovered" art, either making or experiencing it?
I’ve always loved making things, and when I was younger I did a lot of crafts and sewing with my Granny so that is something that has always brought me a lot of happiness. When I was picking my A-Levels for the final two years of school I couldn’t decide what to choose and I picked Art on a bit of a whim! As soon as I started I felt a huge wash of relief as I realised it was something I could spend all of my time doing and be content and challenged all at the same time.
I discovered the paintings of Willem De Kooning, Gilbert & George’s crazy photo montages, Allen Jones’ “Women As Furniture’ series and realised the scope of what art could be. And then I saw one of Jeff Koons’ inflatable lobster sculptures and I wondered if I could somehow manage to configure my life to be filled with art-making.
What has your art education been like, formally and/or informally?
As a teenager I trained as a classical musician at Wells Cathedral School (a specialist school in the UK) so I’ve always been heavily involved with the arts in one form or another. My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was a musician and my other Grandfather made paintings so I was lucky that the arts informally filled my life from an early age.
When applying for art school I was drawn towards Central Saint Martins in London as they offered a research-led pathway and I’ve always enjoyed the academic side of education. I tend to get most of my ideas for reading books, watching plays, listening to the radio and talking to people, hence I was keen to go somewhere than didn’t define their course by the type of work you made but by the way you approach it. During my studies at Saint Martins I was part of the XD pathway, a cross dimensional studio-based program which allowed ideas, not medium, as a basis for producing work which I found to be a very productive and limitless approach.
Your artist statement describes your work as an examination of "pleasure seeking, behaviours towards indulgence and the dichotomy between long-term and short-term gratification." Can you elaborate on this?
In 2007 the phrase “credit crunch” started to become commonplace and despite the fact that few people understood its complexities, the term was quick to enter our societal lexicon. The subsequent global financial crisis represented the beginning of a journey which led me to analyse the world through an economic lens.
The way I see it capitalism is a constant moral battle, we are frequently existing in conflicted positions. From pillaging the earths resources just so we can consume like crazy to governments privatising companies for quick cash, the balance between short-term and long-term benefits is one of the biggest challenges facing us as a human population. On an individual level the “I want it even though I know I shouldn’t” mindset is all too seductive. The work “Bomb-Bombe” for instance came from the idea that something is delicious and you want to devour it but it’s probably going to blow up in your face.
You use 3D printing as a central means of creating work in your practice; when did you first become interested in this method? What challenges (or, alternately, freedoms) do you find in using 3D printers?
I always remember hearing the story of how David Hockney used a fax machine to send work half way across the world to be printed out and assembled. The way in which new technologies affect art production is something that has always interested me as it is a reflection of the particular time when the artist is making work.
A couple of years ago I was researching themes of production and whether the future of production would become even more industrialised or return to the home and I started looking at processes that allowed consumers to take back control of the stuff in their lives and discovered 3D printing. At that time 3D printers were still quite expensive and I collaborated with Ultimaker who loaned me a machine make artwork with and it all began from there …! Especially after leaving art school 3D printing became a crucial way for me to make work as it is fairly impractical to have a full blown casting and plastics workshop in your studio but a 3D printer will fit nicely in the corner.
Also I’m a perfectionist so being able to draw exactly what I would like on the computer and have the assurance that it will come out of the printer in a precise manner is very reassuring! The biggest challenge is post-processing. You can start with an excellent frame for your work but then achieving the finish that you want involves hours of painstaking sanding, resin coating, buffing etc.
What is your process like? How do you move from creation/design to production?
My process is very research led initially. I tend to become consumed by one idea or subject and learn about it in every way that I can, and through doing that I come to visual ideas for art. Active research leads to the production of objects, those objects are made and problems of materiality are solved along the way, and communication and exchange with artists and audiences leads me back to further questions ... and so the cycle continues.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a careful balance of chaos and order! I like to lay things out that I am working on in grids on the floor, moving them around in order of importance. I generally have two or three things on the go so that if I get stuck on one I can go to the other whilst I figure out how to solve the first problem.
What do you think is the most challenging or daunting part of pursuing an artistic practice, whether creatively or professionally? What do you do to get through it?
Professionally the most challenging part is that art is a risky business! With grants drying up and opportunities highly competitive it can feel like you are adrift at sea. But this is offset when things are going well - you are reminded that you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else and the instability is worth the emotional and financial turmoil.
Creatively the most daunting part is worrying you might run out of ideas. This has only happened to me once and I started to question why on earth I had chosen to be an artist. The best thing to do in these situations is just let life happen and sooner or later the inspiration will return.
What is the best advice you've received?
“Fail fast” and “paddle your own canoe”.
What do you want to learn more about, or challenge yourself to master, in regard to your practice?
I would like to become a master of time, and I would use my power to make sure I had enough of it to do everything I want to do.
What do you need most, or value most, as an artist?
Time (again!). I value my time in the sense that I can create my own schedule and framework on the days I am pursuing my practice. It is incredibly freeing. Conversely I get frustrated when other work takes over and I don’t get enough time in the studio.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a large piece which features an enlarged pineapple grenade top with a collection of animal tails beneath forming a bulbous oval.
Anything else you would like to add?
There is no secret to success, it's just good old hard work.
+ + +