Incised Walnut

Alison Crowther

We love Alison’s sensitivity to the complex geometry of nature, and the way she observes and responds to her material, taking cues from the density, grain and growth pattern to create intricate, surface texture and pattern. A Yorkshire-born sculptor and maker who works almost exclusively with English oak sourced from responsibly-managed Sussex woodlands close to her home and studio, she is renowned for the dialogue she creates between material and process.

All Alison’s work is painstakingly hand-carved from great trunks of unseasoned oak. Guided by the natural characteristics of the wood – often embracing the gnarly surface texture – her forms are true to its organic nature, while also complementing the environments in which they are to be ultimately used and displayed. The wood itself is in a continuous process of change and refinement as the timber ages and weathers, adding to its beauty and character. Using tools that range from chainsaws to chisels, she produces work that is sometimes domestic in scale and functional in use, such as Glyndebourne Kissing Benches and sometimes monumental, as with Scale Tree I, created for One Shenzhen Bay.

Having first studied 3D Design at Buckinghamshire College, Alison then studied Furniture Design at the Royal College of Art. Her first notable commission were the pews she created for the Prior Silkstede Chapel at Winchester Cathedral (1996) followed by Lover’s Seat at Chatsworth in 1999 (which also doubles as fence 15 in the annual horse trials held at the estate!) Over the last twenty years, she has produced notable, site-specific works for international, corporate clients such as Swire Properties in Hong Kong; the Sheraton Hotel at Ghuangzhou, China; and the Shangri-La Hotel’s iconic Ting restaurant at The Shard in London. She has also undertaken many private commissions throughout Europe and the USA, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

Most recently, her commissions have included seats commissioned by plantsman Jamie Butterworth for his 2022 Chelsea Flower Show Garden in aid of Place2Be; Uovo, a private commission created from a mature oak tree that had been felled to make way for an extension to a public swimming pool; and Xylosphere I, commissioned for the ‘On Form’ exhibition at Painswick Rococo Garden where Alison used the texture of the annual rings to make undulations reminiscent of the Neolithic stone, ‘Petrosphere’ at Skara Brae in Orkney.

An active supporter of QEST, Alison is currently passing on her skills to a Scholar of her own. She says of her work, “What motivates me is the dialogue between hand and material, while remaining open-minded to where that conversation might lead.”

All photography by Jacqui Hirst and Sarah Sheldrake.

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