A little while back I had the chance to chat with ceramicist Sophie Milne. Sophie's work tends to sit on that happy line between fine art and functional design, creating pieces that are beautiful and simple to use everyday.
S: Tell us a little bit about your background. What path has led you to what you do now?
SM: After finishing a BA I undertook a few short courses to keep myself entertained while I contemplated where to next. When I tried pottery everything seemed to fall into place. I completed a diploma in ceramics, set up a shop/studio with some colleagues and have been making and teaching ever since. My making space has varied during the 14 years since I finished my studies but my passion to create with clay has never diminished.
S: What does a typical day at work involve for you?
SM: There is no typical day as every day is different and it’s often weather dependant in regard to how quickly things are drying. Some typical activities are… throwing, turning pots, decorating, glazing, packing the kiln, unpacking the kiln, sanding, contemplating, drawing, photographing, bookkeeping, blogging, emailing, delivering, packaging, posting…
S: What materials do you most enjoy using and why?
SM: That would be clay. I could give all sorts of reasons relating to the character of this material - its malleability and fluidity - but to be honest I haven’t explored any other material to the same degree and it simply feels like my language. I enjoy ceramic objects, particularly vessels, as they are functional but can also possess a multitude of meanings.
S: What processes do you go through to get to the finished piece?
SM: I am comfortable with a fairly low tech approach but am no purist in regard to my craft. I use the potter’s wheel, my clay comes from a bag, I use a combination of commercial and natural materials for colours and glazes and I fire in an electric kiln.
S: You tend to often use subdued and earthy tones in your work. What is it about this colour palette that you are drawn to?
SM: I am interested in creating objects that can withstand fashions and trends and I guess I feel an earthy, quiet palette is more likely to be something someone can live with longer than a bold, colourful statement.
The colours I use tend to be the ones I surround myself with in my own home, which to me means they are synonymous with comfort and peacefulness - qualities that I hope my works possess.
S: When starting a new body of work, where do you turn for inspiration and ideas?
SM: The material itself often suggests forms and my ideas usually evolve from previous work. I am inspired by my immediate environment. When I become more acutely aware of one particular aspect of life I sometimes feel driven to celebrate it in vessel form - the rhythm and chaos of power lines for instance or an aerial view of the delineation of fields.
There are also times when I am simply function driven. Right now I seem to be short of good pasta bowls!
S: You also sustain a strong teaching practice alongside creating your own work. How do you strike a balance between these two aspects of your career?
SM: I really enjoy teaching. It’s a constant reminder of the joy of discovering expression through clay and inquiring students remind me to question my own practices and keep a fresh approach to my work. Time wise however this ‘balance’ is a whole other story.
S: What are your future plans for Sophie Milne ceramic pieces?
SM: I am currently playing around with coloured porcelain and inlay. The combination of these two techniques is extending my range of matte finishes and giving new direction to my line work and mark making. I am noticing subtle nostalgic elements creeping into my forms so am allowing myself to explore this a little to see where it leads.
Oh, and I want to make those pasta bowls.
Thanks Sophie - you give us a ring when the pasta bowls are sorted! In the meantime, you can purchase Sophie's work online here, or come in store to receive 20% of Sophie Milne Ceramics until 8th January, 2012. (Um, woo-hoo!)