Name: Alison Croney Moses
Current Location: Boston, MA
Education: BFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design , MA in Sustainable Business and Communities from Goddard College
Preferred Art Medium(s): Wood
Children (ages and genders): 5 month old boy, Ezra
Website Address(es): alisoncroney.com, eliotschool.org
What is your background (where are you from, education, important details, where are you know, etc.)?
My parents moved from Guyana, South America to the United States and eventually ended up in Winston-Salem North Carolina, where I grew up. I left home to study furniture design at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After RISD, I worked in the Education Department at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, CO, then moved to New York City and worked as the Education Director for Red Rabbit where I developed and led interactive cooking and gardening programs for teachers, parents and children. In 2013 I moved to the Boston area and began working as a woodworking teacher at the McCormack Middle School and as the Program Coordinator of the School Partnership Program at the Eliot School Fine & Applied Arts. Currently I direct the School Partnership Program, which sends teachers out into Boston public schools and community sites to teach visual arts and woodworking program to over 2,000 K-8 students. When I find the time, I make my way to the woodshop to curve wood into sculptures.
Was there any part of your formal or non-formal training that prepared you for being a creative maker and mother simultaneously?
Nothing can really prepare you to be a mother, however, I do think that going to design school trained me to creatively problem solve, multitask when I’m over committed, and dig deep and keep going to the best of my ability when I’m sleep deprived. My creative practice includes all parts of my new life of caring for my baby, investing in my relationship with my husband and new family, taking on the Director position at the Eliot School and keeping up with my woodworking. These skills that I learned in design school are essential as I try to navigate this new life
Before Ezra was here, I focused a lot on preparing for labor and spent some time preparing for the months afterwards. What I did not prepare for and could not have imagined was how hard it would be to balance all the different parts of my life. I have been fortunate to be in a supportive community where each day I go through ‘mini-trainings’; asking questions and brainstorming with new parents in a support group I attend, talking with women at work who have raised children and still have their professional careers, and using my family as a resource, regardless of how far they are. This community of women who have a wealth of knowledge took time to develop and it was not readily accessible at first, but worth while to develop because I have learned so much.
Are there any women that you find to be an inspiration for you as an artist/mother?
All women! Once again, my perspective has changed so much since having a baby. I look at all women differently—with kids, without kids, working in an office or studio or working at home. We are complicated amazing humans that experience the world in unique ways. I find all women inspiring. If I had to pick one to highlight, I would pick my sister, Ren Croney. She’s a New York City based actor and occasionally does interior design projects. On top of that, she’s the primary caretaker of an amazing and energetic 2 year old and with her support, her husband has built a successful healthy school food company over the years. Balancing all the demands on her time has not been easy. However, I am in awe of the care, love and sensitivity she strives to provide to her family and her creative practice. Each day I learn something new from her!
Can you talk about how you are balancing your roles as artist, teacher, and mother? Did you take time off after the birth of your child? How did that work? What about childcare? How did you navigate making artwork? What are your hopes for role balance in the future?
I have been lucky that the leadership at the Eliot School supports their employees having a work-life balance. I’m the first employee to make use of the new maternity policy that gave me 3 months of maternity leave. My husband took 3 weeks off of his job to be at home, which was extremely helpful during those tough first weeks! The logistics of going back to work has been one of the biggest challenges that we are constantly working on. I am back at work for a total of 30 hours a week, about 20 of which are in the office and 10 of which are at home during naps and weekends. To make up those 20 hours, we have a good friend who comes over to take care of Ezra and my husband cares for him one morning a week and then works a later day.
Right now, making artwork is the part of my life that has taken a back seat. My goal is to teach an adult woodworking class this coming Spring or Fall and then begin adding time in the shop to make my own artwork. It’s difficult to decide what parts of my life to neglect, and some parts I can’t neglect! So for now I’m doing almost everything, but spending less time on it.
Can you talk about the importance of touch in your work? How does touch change our perception of an object?
My work in the woodshop is a very intimate one—I often can spend hours on the same task. I loose myself in the process of bending and manipulating wood, using and trusting my eyes, ears and hands as my first tools: When I ask the wood to bend more than it can, I hear the fibers of the wood creaking, warning me that if I continue, the wood will tear apart. When running a curved piece of wood over the jointer, I can feel the vibration if I’m not providing enough support.
I am constantly considering the source of my materials and their intended uses, connecting our natural environment to the larger community. When people interact with the objects I make, I want them to feel this process and the care that went into the objects with the first touch. I want them to feel the qualities of the material; silkiness of the fibers and see the richness of the color. The curves should seem effortless, yet the tension should be felt. I hope my work is all about the physical experience, then it is a success.
Can you tell us about the Eliot School? How does the school partnership program work? Why is craft important for school children? What should be the role of craft in contemporary education?
Our education systems are increasingly shifting away from a balance of both intellectual and hands-on learning to a more one-sided focus on isolated academic subjects such math, science, reading and writing. To prove learning is happening, our children are taking multiple-choice tests rather than using their skills to create things and affect the world around them. Vocational education that prepared young people to work in a trade or craft used to be in many of our public schools, so that all students had access to hands on education.
Today, most schools have turned their woodshops and metal shops into academic classrooms. The hands-on experiences that once enticed some students to stay in school, and helped all students to be well-rounded makers and thinkers, are gone.
Learning theoretical math problems or increasing vocabulary are both important, but mind focused activities like these do not allow for the physical understanding and active learning that’s needed for all of our young people to function in an ever-changing society, or to deal with the societal challenges that perhaps can only be solved by pushing limit and boundaries.
We need craft now to better imagine what our future will be. Leaders of tomorrow need to think beyond what has already been established. They need to depend on their own creativity, their ability to take an idea and put it into action in their daily lives, while always considering the impact of their actions on the natural world and those around them.
Through the School Partnership Program at the Eliot School, we are sending teachers and teaching assistants out to public schools and community sites to provide 2,000 students each year with visual arts or woodworking education. Just last week, at the Conley Elementary School some of our 3rd graders were making xylophones to play in their music class. They spent their class measuring, hammering and sawing. But it was also more than that: they were seeing how important numbers were to parts fitting together. They were gaining a physical understanding of momentum and kinetic energy. They were practicing persistence and creativity when solving problems that arose. They were learning to test their limitations, to collaborate with their classmates, and learning that what they physically do and make can impact their larger community for the better.
In addition to the outreach through the School Partnership Program, the Eliot School offers classes and workshops in our school building in woodworking, sewing and fiber arts, painting, drawing, photography and other crafts, teaching about 1,600 adults and children each year.
This year, the Eliot School celebrates its 340th birthday in 2016 with parties, talks, an exhibition and more. Founded in 1676 as a grammar school, we turned our focus in the late 19th century to the manual arts.
You took part in the Defying Gravity: Artists of Color “Making It” in the Bay State roundtable talk? Could you talk about this experience? What was the takeaway from this event? How do you speak about relevant social issues in your work? What could other craftspeople do to support and highlight these issues?
It was wonderful to participate in an engaging conversation with such talented artists. It is important for my work to be appreciated for the quality of work, rather than for who I am. However, my work tells a lot about me and it’s up to the viewer/user to make those connections.
It’s rare to see an African America women as a woodworker, or perhaps even as a director of a large program. I choose to work with young people as much as possible in order to redefine what success looks like. It’s important for children to see people like them, female and/or brown skinned, choosing a creative path, being successful and caring about them. I firmly believe it is our duty to change the stereotypes that exist early, before those stereotypes shape the path that young people take.
It’s important for everyone to use all means that are in their power to address social issues, now more than ever. If we only get involved once in a while, then we are not fully engaged in forming the community around us that our kids will be a product of. It is important to create art to raise awareness and not to shield our kids from hard topics. It is as equally important to make decisions in our jobs and daily lives to help to better our communities.
What can we do as makers and supporters of the craft world to change stereotypes about this field or individuals who work in said field?
Are there any projects, hobbies, or activities (ex. Running, knitting, tea connoisseur, arts organizations, volunteering, etc.) outside of your artistic practice that you feel passionately about? What are they? Do you find them feeding your practice? If so, how?
Everything feeds my artistic practice. I don’t really see them as separate parts of my life. I particularly enjoy going on outings with my family. Before, when it was just my husband and I, we went on bike rides, hikes, camping, museum visits, cooking and eating delicious foods, and dancing. Now we are figuring out how to do these things with a little baby. It’s not easy, but it is even more rewarding and helps me feel fulfilled.
Anything else we should know?
Hummm, perhaps but considering Ezra will wake up soon . . .
Finally just for fun. If you were to make a playlist today what would be your top 5 favorite songs?
Ruth B Lost Boy
Leon Bridges Coming Home
Leon Bridges Smooth Sailing
Jackson 5 ABC
Michael Jackson Man in the Mirror