Ali Chabot has a knack for picking up the pieces. The 26-year-old Malden creative turned a moving mishap — cherished plates, broken — into a little business. On her Instagram (@thelittlethingsinterior), she sells “home plates,” renderings of states and countries or any place you might inhabit, made from fragments of dishes. The Globe chatted with Chabot about smashing plates and putting together a new sense of home.
Q. How did you first discover your creativity?
A. I’m from Rhode Island, North Kingstown, and I ended up applying to Berklee College of Music, so that’s why I am in Boston now. I ended up going to Berklee for a year and a half. It just ended up not being my thing. I still love music. I still do music. I (write songs), so I play the piano and I sing. [My creativity has] pretty much always been multifaceted. I used to be really into pen and ink and watercolor, but I never feel like I really found my medium beside that and beside music.
Q. “The Little Things” started with one Christmas gift for your brother. What gave you the idea for that first piece?
A. We used to live in Dorchester, my boyfriend and I, and we ended up going on a family vacation to Cape Cod. While we were in Cape Cod, our apartment got broken into, and my boyfriend’s family very, very graciously let us move in with them. I had brought a lot of plates and regular things that you move in with and I’d broken a lot of plates during the move, and it ended up being Christmastime around then. My brother is in the Marines, so I’ve always tried to make him presents that remind him of home. I found these broken plate pieces, and they ended up being plates that my mom had given me and they were the ones that we grew up with. I was like, “OK, I think I can work with this” and I decided to make them into the shape of Rhode Island.
Q. What’s your process like?
A. Before I was just using a hammer and an old shade. I would take the shade, place it down and take a plate and put it on top, fold the shade back over and use the hammer to just kinda hammer the pieces. There’s still no exact arithmetic behind it, but now I use a mallet that my dad gave me, and that’s a lot nicer and safer. I usually start with the big [pieces] just to get the foundation and then I’ll get smaller pieces to work into the details. I was buying the wood canvases from A.C. Moore until my uncle was like, “Oh my gosh I can just make them for you,” so he and my dad have actually been making a lot of the wood backgrounds for me.
Q. You started making these pieces for people who “want a reminder of where home is” after your own home was broken into. How has that felt?
A. If anything, it kinda made me realize that you always know where you’re from, but you have the ability, or I guess I have the ability, to make anywhere a home and make light of any situation using a creative outlet. That ended up becoming these plates, and I was so unhappy working in a restaurant — I mean, I still work in a restaurant, and it is what it is. It’s my source of income, but [this experience has] also been a great reminder [that] you have to stay creative, keep doing what you love to do, keep pursuing that because you never know what’s gonna come out of it. No matter where you are in life, you could feel like, “Oh my gosh, am I gonna get out of this?” and then all of a sudden something comes up and you just, you work with it.
Interview was edited and condensed. Jenni Todd can be reached at email@example.com.