As part of my continuing series on artists for whom cats figure prominently as subjects of their work, today I’m interviewing Alison Kurek of Buffalo, New York.
Alison’s early artistic career focused on photographic imagery, often social commentary pieces. Over the years, her style mellowed, becoming more playful. Her work is aimed at people who just need some smile therapy.
Although she still creates photographs, her repertoire has expanded to include polymer clay, ceramics and acrylic paintings. She often mixes it up in her current work, so probably best fits into the “mixed media artist” category.
Alison is a Buffalo native and a graduate of the State University College at Buffalo. Her work has been sold through galleries, shops and art festivals for over 15 years and is held in numerous collections throughout the United States.
Karen: First off, Alison, please tell me about your cats.
Alison: I have 2 cats. Mylo: a 2-year-old gray tuxedo and Livee : a 1-year-old tortie. Mylo has kicked off my tuxedo cat craze. They’re self-supporting (it’s hard work being a model), they have a lot of energy and they make me laugh quite often so how can they not inspire me?
Karen: Have you always been a cat person?
Alison: No. I grew up with dogs and didn’t have a cat move in with me until I was in my 20s. They grew on me rapidly though and for a number of years I had four. Chester, one of my original cats, was truly the inspiration for my first pieces of cat art.
Karen: How long have you been working in polymer clay?
Alison: Over ten years. Maybe as long as 13 years but I can really put an official start date on it.
Karen: Are your own cats the models for your work, or is your work the product of a vivid imagination?
Alison: Well — Mylo and Live would like to claim that they are responsible for all of my current work — but I let my imagination run wild a bit.
Karen: You imbue your mini sculptures with so much personality! Do you plan a certain “mood” before you begin each sculpture, or does it take on a life of its own as you work with it?
Alison: Both depending on the day/specific piece of work. My 3D “Fat Cats” pretty much all start out the same way and find their personality along the way; but my mixed media pieces start out with a painting first — so the cat’s attitude, position, coloring, etc. has to work with the painting. When I work on custom orders the wishes/requests of the customer play heavily into what the final outcome will be.
Karen: Your “Cat Out of the Bag” photo (right) is heartwarming. How did you capture that perfect shot at just the right moment?
Alison: Ah, that’s my Chester. He was a fabulous, FAT tiger with a mountain of personality. That photo was all about being in the right place at the right time — Chester had a bit of an attitude and was NOT one to take direction well. He was the inspiration for my Fat Cat on Edge series.
Karen: Which breed of cat do you most enjoy portraying?
Alison: I can’t say that I’d really choose one over the other — other than to say that most of my creations are of domestic short hairs. Polymer clay doesn’t lend itself well to making furry, long-haired cats (or at least I haven’t figured out how) — and my own cats have all been domestic short hairs. I had a fabulous calico named Jane for many years — so you’ll still find a lot of calicos in my work, along with tigers and tuxedos. I’ve been trying to getting the speckled, brindle coloring of my tortie Livee but am struggling a bit with that.
Karen: Do you ever do custom sculptures?
Alison: Yes — quite often. I work from pictures or from descriptions and match hair and eye color while working names into titles.
Karen: Which of your current works is your favorite?
Alison: I’ve been having a blast with ACEOs! They’re quick and fun and offer flexibility that larger pieces of art work don’t allow.
Karen’s note: “ACEO” is an acronym for Art Cards Editions and Originals. ACEOs always measure 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches, the size of a standard sports trading card. Other than size, there are no other restrictions or limitations, and they can be created in any medium, including but not limited to paper, canvas, wood, clay, fabric and metal.
Karen: Aside from Etsy, do you sell in other online venues or exhibit in galleries?
Karen: Thanks for the interview, Alison. I really enjoyed learning about the cats behind the art!
Check out Alison’s online store. You’ll find that her work is affordable, with most pieces going for less than $20–a great gift idea for the crazy cat lady in your life… or you!
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