Sam Steverlynck: In 2012 you made the Thread Wrapping Machine. Then there was a ceramic press, which is the forerunner of The Extruder. What do you have with machines?
Anton Alvarez: In recent years my practice has focused on machines that make work for me. I find it interesting to distance myself from the production somehow. Because of my background as a canvas maker, I previously made the Thread Wrapping Machine. That was about myself as a maker. For my exhibition at the National Centre for Craft and Design in the English town of Sleaford (Alphabet Aerobics, 2016), I let the staff make the work. I gave the director and two staff members working clothes and asked them to operate the Ceramic Press machine during four months – they have knowledge about the machine that I don’t even have. The machine consisted of a metal tube that had to be filled with clay by the person operating it. In the bottom, there is a dial attached to the shape that will come out from the clay. If you press the button, mounted at the side of the machine, [there is a moving part that applies tons of pressure and forces the clay through it]. The machine has a moving table underneath to catch the object. By regulating the distance between the table and the extrusion, different shapes appear.
AA: Clay is a very beautiful material. [The way you can shape it in the kiln becomes eternal.] I find that very interesting. I want to give this material to people who do not know how to operate it. It will have a certain aesthetic coming out. But if I would give [an accompanying] guide with it, I would have a little bit of control. Or I could imagine what will happen with it rather than the endless possibilities of clay.
AA: I like the notion of the process when I am working with clay or wax. If I say on beforehand: ‘I am going to make a stool or a chair,’ I don’t feel free enough. If I just let the object happen, it can become a stool. But I do not want to have that intention [in advance]. It would limit the process too much. I like that the object makes itself.
SS: That notion of process is also readable in the final product. Is that important for you?
AA: I enjoy the aspect of the process in a material approach. I like the idea of not knowing the outcome. It is about the drive to create. If I somehow imagine how something will look like, in a way it’s not worth making anymore because I have it in my head already. I like the aspect of surprise. The best energy comes from things I could not expect. That is why the approach of the last couple of years has been so important for me.