Chili Bowl Intern Profile: Allora McCullough

February 19, 2016 by

Allora griffin bowl - webWith our 19th Annual Chili Bowl only a week away, we wanted to catch up with one of the people making this year’s event happen: Chili Bowl Intern Allora McCullough.

Since January, Allora has been a daily presence in our studio, and in only eight weeks she has produced hundreds of bowls for the big event on February 27th. We sat down with her to talk about Chili Bowl, the community at WSW, and how this internship has influenced her practice.

Where are you from?
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, but I’ve lived in fifteen different states so far. Both of my parents were in the U.S. Airforce, so we moved around a lot. I’ve been in New York since 2012, so it’s the place I’ve lived the longest and the place I call home.

How did you get involved in ceramics?
I learned to throw on the wheel at the age of 16. I transferred colleges at least four times, but always took a ceramics class at each new school. I was scared of being a “starving artist,” so I got my BBA in Economics. Eventually, I realized clay was what I truly loved and I came to SUNY New Paltz for my MFA. I knew I was making the right choice.Allora closeup hands - webWhat has your experience at WSW been like for the past two months?
Amazing! I have learned so much and gotten to know so many incredible women. Being surrounded by fellow clay artists is always educational. It’s a lot of hard work. I come in every day to throw bowls, decorate bowls, fire kilns, mix glaze, and more. It’s all work that I enjoy and a lot of it feels like play. The timing [of the internship] couldn’t have been more perfect since I graduated in December and wanted to stay in the area.

The Chili Bowl is coming up next week – what are you most looking forward to?
I’m really excited to see all of the bowls we’ve been working on displayed in one room. It’s a huge collaborative project, so seeing it all come together is the most exciting part.

How has working on a production scale influenced your personal work?
My primary practice is as a ceramic sculptor, so this production work has helped me gain a different set of skills. I’ve been able to throw on the wheel for years, but I have finally gained a level of consistency that I hadn’t previously developed. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity at WSW to really hone in on my production skills and feel more confident heading into the next stage.

What’s your personal work like?
My sculpture work explores research on the existence of the soul in religious and scientific contexts. I enjoy making life-size figures and portraits in clay. I then place them in mixed media environments to tell narratives about the human soul and the ethereal realm. For me, my art is a conduit for conversation. When I see that happen, I know I’m doing what I love.Allora trimming - webWe’re so excited that you’ll be teaching Four Ways to Clay at WSW in March! How does teaching play into your practice?
Being a teacher constantly forces you to reexamine your skills. You need to be able to demonstrate techniques and describe them in a language that others can understand. This allows me to think about my actions intentionally. Also, it is really gratifying to show someone else how to make something and watch them work to figure it out afterwards. The look on students’ faces when they have a finished piece is priceless.

What’s unique about WSW compared to other studios you’ve worked in?
I’m really excited to be a part of the clay studio at a stage where they’re expanding and growing so much. I may even be able to help build one of the first gas kilns for the program this March and April. Plus, our weekly Wednesday throwing night brings together so many people at different experience levels and allows them to share and work collaboratively toward a common goal.

What would you say to the next Chili Bowl intern?
Have a lot of fun experimenting and try not to be too rigid in your expectations. I imagined initially that I would be responsible for throwing, trimming, decorating, glazing, and firing ALL of the bowls from start to finish. After learning how much of a group effort this major project is, I was able to relax a little bit and get into a production groove that worked both for myself and for all of the volunteers.

Allora squid bowl - web

What are you doing after your internship is over?
This May, I’ll be moving to a small cherry tree farm about two hours north of here. My partner and I will be refurbishing an old barn for a living space and establishing my first ceramic studio home base.

How do you see your ceramics practice evolving in the future?
I intend to continue making pottery and functional work to sell at craft shows around the country. Since I’m so used to travel as a way of life, it will certainly be comforting to be able to pick up and move around as part of my career.