Tableware for everyday living

Form and function. It’s a marriage made in heaven for those who love beautifully designed and crafted items for the home that can actually be used every day. Not delicate items that spend most of their lives wrapped up and stored away, only to be brought out for special occasions. Items that become part of your daily routine.

Canberra’s Alison Jackson, a multiple award-winning gold and silversmith artist, designs her work with form and function in mind, including the 48 high-end pieces included in her first solo exhibition, ‘Table Tools’, on now at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre.

‘I love it when my pieces are actually used in the home,’ says Alison ‘I’m inspired by the idea of how a simple object can transform an everyday experience. How functional, tactile objects can reinvent a space.’

Alison created a consolidated body of work specifically for Table Tools, using traditional silversmithing processes and techniques and materials such as fine silver, copper and brass.

The special collection of one-off, individually handcrafted pieces includes pouring vessels of many shapes and sizes, spoons each with their own personality, quirky whisks and flexible serving utensils. The pieces in the solo exhibition are all timeless, designed to last a lifetime and created to pass on to the next generation.

Mel George, who curated the show for Craft ACT, sums it up beautifully. ‘We’ve all felt the warmth of ladling a bowl of hot soup in winter, the destructive pleasure when using a spoon to crack through the toffee surface on a crème brulée or the sense of achievement when you’ve whisked the cream to the appropriate consistency for a pavlova,’ says Mel. ‘It’s the use of these objects and the rituals that come with them that makes them so necessary in our daily lives. They hold and contain memories.’

With Table Tools, Alison created a series of vessels using traditional, and somewhat primitive, silversmithing processes and techniques. It’s an age-old process that is intensely time-consuming—a painstaking method that commands skill and patience.

Alison started each vessel with a flat sheet of metal, sinking it into a hollow of a tree stump to give it some shape. She then heated it to make it soft enough to be able to work it again. Next she turned to the ‘raising process’.

‘Raising is a traditional silversmithing technique, which is a becoming a dying art. It’s intensely time consuming and labour intensive, but is also an incredibly rewarding process,’ Alison says. ‘It’s amazing what you can achieve with a sheet of metal and a hammer. ‘It’s an old school way of creating special pieces, but I love it.’

While each piece in Table Tools has a name, Alison doesn’t like to dictate use. ‘They’re designed to be flexible and I want people to be inspired by their imagination and not restrict themselves to one use,’ says the artist.

Alison doesn’t create all of her work using such traditional techniques. She also designs and produces a retail range of tableware, vessels and planters, available through Agency, Craft Act’s shop in the Ori Building, Braddon. And she has just launched two new lines of individually handcrafted jewellery, designed for everyday wear, also on sale at Agency.

Alison works full-time out of her own fully equipped silversmithing workshop, affectionately called Pocket Studio, where she also teaches short courses. She discovered her love of silversmithing at an early age and was accepted to study at the Australian National University of Art, Gold and Silversmithing Workshop. While studying, she worked part-time for iconic Australian contemporary design firm, Fink and Co. She has also spent six months studying in Germany and has exhibited there, as well as throughout Australia.

In 2014, Alison was a finalist in LaunchPad and exhibited as part of The Other Hemisphere exhibition at Milan Design Week. The year before that, she was runner-up in the prestigious Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, Craft and Object Design category.

Table Tools was made possible in part because of an Australia Council 2015 New Work Grant and artsACT project funding.

You can explore Alison’s work on her new website:

Table Tools is on until 24 October

Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre

Level 1, North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra City

Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm

Saturday 12 pm to 4 pm

About The Author

Wendy Johnson graduated from uni with a Master’s in Journalism and has been working with words ever since. She is inquisitive and loves to explore, interview and share what she discovers, no matter what the topic.

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