Life as Play

 Ludere (To Play) is an exciting reimagining of the creative potential found in the domestic realm and designing for the home. The exhibition, at Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, is a collaboration between Industrial Designer Caren Elliss and her partner in life and work, ceramicist Alison Smiles. They have come together for an exhibition that celebrates the spirit of concept, experimentation and play.  

Eva Zeisel, an industrial designer who worked extensively in ceramics, once described her practice as ‘[t]he playful search for beauty”. This was the guiding statement for the Elliss and Smiles when developing their collaborative exhibition Ludere (to Play).   

Caren Elliss is the founder of Caren Elliss Design, a furniture studio based in the Western suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. Caren Elliss Design is focused on sustainably sourced Australian timbers and promoting furniture options produced by South Australian fabricators using all-Australian Steel. Caren Elliss Design represents the very best of independent, ethically produced design. Elliss, herself, has a background in Industrial Design, and was a furniture design associate at the prestigious Jam Factory.   

Alison Smiles is an Adelaide-based artist working predominately in ceramic based sculpture. She is a graduate from the University of South Australia and an alumnus of the Jam Factory associate program. Alison completed her honours degree at the Adelaide Central School of Art in 2018, where she explored heteronormative approaches in the medical field and its impacts on the queer body through her own lived experience. This continues to occupy her practice and research. Alison is currently employed as a Lecturer at ACArts delivering undergraduate training in ceramics which is awarded through Flinders University.  

The two artists believe that the works in the Ludere (To Play) exhibition have “been born from a place of experimentation and play and have grown from the life [they] have shared.” After spending over 25 years together, creative collaboration has come very naturally to the two artists. Their contrasting positions on design, contemporary art and craft have led them to creating a body of work that explores the small domestic object and its creative potential.   

Freelance editor and writer, Jemima Kemp explains the ideas behind ‘Ludere’: “Ludus, a Dantean Latinism borrowed from the Latin ‘ludere’. Present active infinitive of ludo ‘play’. Ludere: to play.” She has stated that “[p]lay is a slippery beast of an idea. Ludere, the Ur word reaching into and echoing through other words. The word itself, ‘play’ defined in action and instance- to play- not in essence (by what it does not what it is).”  

Through combining organic making techniques with industrial technologies, such as 3D printing, laser cutting and mould-making, Elliss’ clean and precise industrial expertise is softened by Smiles’ touch of handcrafting and spontaneity. The objects in this collection form relations to one another and then the world through a theatrical play of line, texture and colour.   

View the Ludere (To Play) exhibition, online until 11 September, 2021. 

 Image: Caren Elliss + Alison Smiles, Modular lounge set, 2021. Photo: Michael Haines Photography