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Daily Inspiration: Meet Allison Shawn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allison Shawn.

Hi Allison, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I started SOMBRA as a counterbalance to my architecture career. I kept finding myself assigned to large, complex, fast-paced projects that left little time to nurture the subtle details of design. That lack gave me a tenacious itch. I needed an outlet to explore form, space, and materiality in a more humane way, so I started SOMBRA and returned to my teenage love of ceramics. At first, I mostly sold plant pots and vases – objects that enhance the beauty of the living things they contain as well as help define the greater space surrounding them. These are still among my bestsellers and favorite objects to make. I am currently expanding into larger works that root more deeply into architecture and interior design. I’m designing some pendant and table lamps, wall hangings, and a line of tableware. As SOMBRA continues to evolve, I would love to find opportunities to bring it all together and intertwine both my ceramic and architecture work in holistically designed spaces.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The struggle with self is the realest one. Growing my business has so far been surprisingly smooth and steady (knock on wood!) thanks to my wonderful customers and the friends that have supported me every step of the way. My biggest challenges have been in facing my own occasional flare ups of self-doubt and imposter syndrome.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
With SOMBRA, I make ceramic art & objects for the home and garden. All work is designed and wheel-thrown by me at my Mt. Washington home studio. My experience as an architect informs my care for human factors as well as my ability to develop striking and functional new forms. My desire is to counteract the constant distraction of contemporary living with handmade objects that demand presence. My style leans towards the thoughtful, elemental, and tranquil — but encourages the absolutely riotous.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
The internet can be an incredibly generous, supportive space. Throughout the development of SOMBRA, I’ve been blown away by the kindness of strangers on Instagram. Despite all the horror stories and the prevalence of trolls in many corners of the internet, my experiences building SOMBRA have been overwhelmingly gracious and encouraging. I’ve stumbled onto creative partners, faithful customers, ebullient cheerleaders, and so many pottery friends. Before the pandemic, I’d always been the face-to-face type, so only by being forced into isolation did I find this huge and hugely kind creative community online.

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Allison Shawn

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