ARTIST INTERVIEW: Alison Carroll of Wonder Valley
Company: Wonder Valley
Artist: Alison Carroll
Alison Carroll is the co-founder of Wonder Valley alongside her husband Jay. The couple calls Joshua Tree, California home, where they have a high desert studio and newly opened storefront. Through their company, Wonder Valley, they produce beautiful and useful health and home goods that celebrate ‘Grandeur in Simplified Living’.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
At the heart of Wonder Valley we are exploring ideas and creating products which make everyday tasks extraordinary. Our olive oil a great example. It is the first product and the cornerstone of what we create; the beautiful packaging and delicious extra virgin olive oil is not overshadowed by its utilitarian functionality and use. Practicality and beauty are one in the same for me. I think a lot about universal daily routines we all share and try to create products to support those routines and to elevate the experience of them in some way. There’s beauty in routines, in limitations, in removing the excess, but having those necessities be remarkable.
What criteria do you use to evaluate your own work?
There’s an unmistakable gut feeling that happens to me when I’m designing – whether it’s a product for Wonder Valley, or an interior design project – that tells me I’m on the right path… or it gnaws at me when I’m not quite there or need to take a new approach. I try my best to only listen to that, and to put up blinders to what is coming through my phone and computer screen. Nothing I’ve created is ever static but always evolving, even an olive oil bottle. There are always improvements to make, fine tuning to packaging or recipes, rearranging merchandise in a shop or refreshing a space.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
I’m very influenced by my surroundings and the natural world. In all aspects of my life – clothing, furnishings, construction materials, and packaging – I favor natural materials over synthetic. For example, our olive oil bottle is 100% plastic free: glass bottle, paper label, wood and natural cork closure with a wood pulp derivative as a security seal. We spend 9 months of the year in the high desert of Joshua Tree, and the other 3 months in coastal Maine. There’s a completely different pace, diet, social life, and creativity that comes from these two places. I feel most comfortable in a rural place with fresh air, dark skies at night and complete silence. It’s where I do my best work.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
Im very fortunate to have a national park as a backyard and even a quick daly hike can be such a great reset. This brand has always been highly inspired by the more remote parts of our desert, like Wonder Valley, which is about 30 miles east of us. There is such free thinking that comes from being in such a vast, expansive and quiet natural landscape.
All that said, my three most creative meccas are the definitely the California desert, Kyoto, Japan and coastal Maine.
Did you have any mentors or important creative influences?
There are a lot of really incredible women in my life – friends, colleagues, and acquaintances – that I draw a lot of inspiration from. My sister, artist Claire Altomari, Yuri Nomura of Eatrip in Tokyo, Liz Lambert of Bunkhouse Hotels, Pam Shamshiri of Studio Shamshiri, Lily Stockman of Blockshop Textiles, Sharon Mrozinski of the Marston House, and the late Helen Nearing, author of The Good Life. Ultimately, the person I’ve learned the most from is my husband and partner, Jay. My mentor, muse, biggest fan and collaborator in everything.
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
There are Carl Auböck brass objects peppered throughout our home and studio, which are exemplary objects that are as beautiful as they are functional. They are timeless in their design, elevate any surface or space, and also have a healthy dose of humor. What more could you want?