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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. 

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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