This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Sensual Ceramics That Celebrate The Human Form

Studio Visit

You can’t help but want to reach out and touch Sophie Nolan’s ceramic pieces. Each of her one-of-a-kind sculptural vases are commanding in their own way, yet their curved silhouettes also have a distinct sense of softness about them.

We talk to the ceramicist, graphic designer, and mother-of-three about her evolving practice, in her serene studio on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

4th November, 2019

Sophie Nolan in her studio on the Northern Beaches. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Sophie’s soft and sensual vessels. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Sophie hand builds all her pieces. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Sophie once used this studio solely for her graphic design practice – now the ceramics are taking over! Photo – Alisha Gore.

Working on a new piece. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Human shapes are key reference points for Sophie. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Sketching out upcoming designs. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Works loaded into the kiln and ready to fire. Photo – Alisha Gore.

The vases look SO good as a collection! Photo – Alisha Gore.

Sophie’s ceramics on show at home. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Photo – Alisha Gore.

Sally Tabart
Monday 4th November 2019

‘I am seduced by the messiness and tactile quality of clay.’ Sophie Nolan

Growing up, ceramicist Sophie Nolan’s parents owned a homewares store ‘bursting with beautifully designed and curated objects’, and was surrounded by vases, bowls and vessels from all over the globe at a young age. ‘Creating my own ceramics seems like a natural part of my journey’, she explains.

Sophie initially studied Visual Communication, and has run a successful graphic design studio, Showoff Design, for most of her career. It wasn’t until a few years ago that a friend suggested she try her hand at clay. Six months from her very first pinch pot, and Sophie was already selling her very first collection! The initial series of matte black, curvy vases sold out within weeks, giving Sophie the confidence that she might just be onto a good thing.

Sophie’s ceramics celebrate the human form, ‘focusing on the beauty of our unique imperfections, curves, nuances and individualism’, she explains. It’s no surprise she has recently taken up life drawing classes, as her vessels look like they could have been made directly in response to a human pose or gesture.

Working from her home studio in Bilgola on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Sophie hand-builds her vessels from stoneware clay. Starting with a character in mind, first, she sketches out the shape in its angles and curves, then slowly moulds the desired form using slab building and techniques, allowing the shape to emerge as she works. The forms are then bisque fired, glazed and fired again.

‘In contrast to graphic design, I am seduced by the messiness and tactile quality of clay’, she shares, and when she’s in the midst of creating a new collection, it’s often spread out ‘from one end of the room to the other’. She also holds ‘clay dates’ at her studio, where she teaches basic hand-building techniques to small groups over tea.

It’s now been a little over three years since the mother-of-three girls first started getting her hands dirty in clay, and these days her computer is ‘squashed up in the far corner’ of the studio she once used solely for graphic design! Her ever-growing ceramics practice is supported by various client commissions, as well as orders from several interiors stores and local stylists. Sophie’s work is also often featured in photoshoots (which is how we found her!) and, more recently, in art exhibitions. In fact, she’s in a show opening this weekend! You can find 12 of Sophie’s sculptural works alongside pieces by figurative painters Dylan Jones and Stef Tarasov at StudioDirect Michael Reid, on this Saturday November 9th + Sunday November 10th at Michael Reid Gallery in Surry Hills. 

This Week

Creative People

The New Small Business Making Mid-Century-Inspired Furniture In Australia

Culture Cush are making velvet-covered modular lounges inspired by retro designs, with the best materials of today!
Christina Karras

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Food

Julia's Crunchy Crumbed Fish With Cos Salad + Yoghurt Tartare

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's delicious take on a classic summer fish dinner – on high rotation for the rest of the season!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

Sustainable Homes

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Lush Secret Garden, Inside A Converted Melbourne Church!

This surprising garden in East Melbourne has its own lagoon pool, a natural fish pond and 10m-tall walls covered in ivy.
Christina Karras

Homes

A Quirky Redfern Terrace With A Hidden Green Roof

The unconventional family home of designer Sacha Coles, split over 4 levels!

Art

A Look Inside Abbey Rich's Mesmerising New Exhibition

See the Melbourne artist's beautifully bold abstract pieces at MARS Gallery, filled with playful patterns and hidden meanings.
Christina Karras
  18 hours ago

Gardens

A Boundless Garden Immersed In Native Bushland

A new coastal home on the Mornington Peninsula buried deep within a native grassy woodland, with stunning gardens by Plume Studio.

Climate

Everything You Need To Know About GreenPower (+ Why You Should Make The Switch)

The easiest way to invest in in Australia's renewable future - and it's simpler (and cheaper) than you think!

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Studio Visit

Local Artist Hannah Maskell Creates Mesmerising Grids Of Colour

The Melbourne-based artist's geometric drawings and wooden sculptures are a cross between 'colour theory and colour therapy'.
Christina Karras

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Local Icons + TikTok Stars, Ginger And Carman

Get to know the fashionable, dynamic duo, whose fun-filled adventures (and inspiring approach to life) have made them Internet famous!
Christina Karras

Architecture

An Unconventional Beach House Elevated On Steel

Steel beams elevate AB House by Office MI—JI to form an unconventional beach house in Barwon Heads.

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Melbourne's Newest Ceramics Studio, Shop & Workshop Space

Kiwi-born, Melbourne-based James Lemon shares his impressive new studio space, and his hopes for building community.

Studio Visit

The Melbourne Ceramicist Inspired By Japanese Ikebana

A studio visit with Kate Brouwer of Asobimasu Clay, one of Melbourne's most exciting makers!
Elle Murrell

Studio Visit

Shannon Garson's Exquisite Hand Painted Porcelain

A studio visit with celebrated Sunshine Coast ceramicist, Shannon Garson.
Jo Hoban

This Week

Homes

A Quirky Redfern Terrace With A Hidden Green Roof

The unconventional family home of designer Sacha Coles, split over 4 levels!

Creative People

The New Small Business Making Mid-Century-Inspired Furniture In Australia

Culture Cush are making velvet-covered modular lounges inspired by retro designs, with the best materials of today!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Local Artist Hannah Maskell Creates Mesmerising Grids Of Colour

The Melbourne-based artist's geometric drawings and wooden sculptures are a cross between 'colour theory and colour therapy'.
Christina Karras

Art

A Look Inside Abbey Rich's Mesmerising New Exhibition

See the Melbourne artist's beautifully bold abstract pieces at MARS Gallery, filled with playful patterns and hidden meanings.
Christina Karras
  18 hours ago

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Sustainable Homes

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

Food

Julia's Crunchy Crumbed Fish With Cos Salad + Yoghurt Tartare

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's delicious take on a classic summer fish dinner – on high rotation for the rest of the season!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Climate

Everything You Need To Know About GreenPower (+ Why You Should Make The Switch)

The easiest way to invest in in Australia's renewable future - and it's simpler (and cheaper) than you think!

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Gardens

A Boundless Garden Immersed In Native Bushland

A new coastal home on the Mornington Peninsula buried deep within a native grassy woodland, with stunning gardens by Plume Studio.

Architecture

An Unconventional Beach House Elevated On Steel

Steel beams elevate AB House by Office MI—JI to form an unconventional beach house in Barwon Heads.

Gardens

A Lush Secret Garden, Inside A Converted Melbourne Church!

This surprising garden in East Melbourne has its own lagoon pool, a natural fish pond and 10m-tall walls covered in ivy.
Christina Karras

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Local Icons + TikTok Stars, Ginger And Carman

Get to know the fashionable, dynamic duo, whose fun-filled adventures (and inspiring approach to life) have made them Internet famous!
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Melbourne's Newest Ceramics Studio, Shop & Workshop Space

Kiwi-born, Melbourne-based James Lemon shares his impressive new retail, workshop and studio space.

Studio Visit

The Melbourne Ceramicist Inspired By Japanese Ikebana

A studio visit with Kate Brouwer of Asobimasu Clay, one of Melbourne's most exciting makers!
Elle Murrell

Studio Visit

Shannon Garson's Exquisite Hand Painted Porcelain

A studio visit with celebrated Sunshine Coast ceramicist, Shannon Garson.
Jo Hoban

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net