Longtime collaborator Rinne Allen is a skillful storyteller in that she sets the stage, creates a visual narrative, and allows you to see through her same lens – without being heavy-handed. It is her light touch that allows Rinne to present her subjects in the best, most straight-forward, and appropriate manner but allows those subjects, themselves, to finish the telling of the story.

Rinne works in black & white, in color, and in other media (like her stunning light drawings), but no matter the approach, she seeks out what makes each image and each moment special; she finds those details that perhaps no one else sees, but that make the image real and truthful. I know that when art seems effortless, it usually means that an un-measurable amount of effort has almost certainly taken place to make the finished work or scenario seem natural. With Rinne’s work, you will never know… Her point of view is always present, always guiding and drawing your eye until: you’ve discovered the essential element of the piece. She uncovered it and carefully led you there until you found it – waiting there to be discovered.



As an artist, she thrives on collaboration. Rinne has worked with us at Alabama Chanin, with R. Wood Studio, Hable Construction, and frequently partners with chef Hugh Acheson to create photographs for his cookbooks and other media. Rinne and fellow artists Kristen Bach and Rebecca Wood curate the site Beauty Everyday (and published a book by the same name). She has an ongoing series of photo essays for the New York Times T Magazine called “Harvest” – that examines American agricultural systems. (Rinne will be speaking about this Harvest series for an upcoming On Design talk scheduled for November 19.) Her work was also featured alongside ours as part of Heath Ceramics’ Alabama on Alabama exhibit.


Because Rinne has such a lovely, unique approach to her art and because she so openly embraces collaboration, we were eager to find how she views her own creative process.

(This project is made possible in-part by a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.)


Alabama Chanin: Creativity for me is_______________________.

Rinne Allen: A form of problem solving.

AC: Do you have to be in a certain mood in order to create?

RA: Ideally, yes, but often there isn’t a choice. Some days, when I go in my studio, I feel more (or less) creative. On the days when I feel more, I could stay there forever. On the days when I feel less, I usually close the door and turn the key and go do something else. I learned a long time ago that you can’t force it…unless you have a deadline! Then, you must push through (see below).

AC: If your creative process or project isn’t productive, at what point do you cut your losses? Or is there a point? Do you keep pressing on?

RA: There are times when I just know that I am not going in the right direction, on an instinctual level. For me, realizing this and moving on was something I had to learn over time. I think, as a creative person, you grow to be content with things not working out, because you usually can figure out something else that can. Learning how to solve those problems far outweighs the failures or stumbling blocks. And, there are times when you do have to push through a block, when you don’t have the luxury of Time working it out for you. It is tough, but when you have your breakthrough it feels so good!

AC: How important is education to your creative process?

RA: I do not think traditional education (i.e., school) is necessary to be creative, but I do think being curious is. Personally, being curious about the world is very linked to my creativity. I explore and learn through my camera. I make notes daily of things that I want to document & learn about—people I would like to meet. I have piles of books in my studio and I look at them, everyday…I am always learning.

AC: Do you have any creative rituals?

RA: I try to keep regular studio hours and having that regularity is a ritual, I suppose. My work is also very tied to the seasons, so the seasons give my work a rhythm that I get used to. I also have certain things I do when I hit a block or need to jumpstart my day…usually, a walk around my yard…or, sweeping & tidying in my studio to clear my head…

AC: Is there something that can halt your creativity? Distractions, fears, etc.? Have you found a way to avoid those pitfalls?

RA: I have two young sons and the responsibilities that come with being a mother don’t always jibe with staying creative…sometimes I am just too tired!! But, I am ok with that…my children are also one of my biggest inspirations and have shown me many different ways to look at the world, which has in turn led me to new ideas. I think being a mother has made me more efficient with my time, because I have less of it to myself…I can get focused pretty quickly now. (For example, since I have been answering these questions, I have had to stop to pick my two children up from school…and stop again to go home & cook…and so on…).

AC: Do you critique your own work?

RA: Yes, I think that is part of being creative, being able to look at your own work critically. And being tough to it…

AC: Has rejection ever affected your creative process?

RA: Yes! It always inspires me to try something differently or get better at something, even if at first it is hard to take.

AC: If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?

RA: No.

AC: How do you define success?

RA: Feeling content.


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