Duckfeatures #21 – Sophie Harle

Hi Sophie, how are you?

I’m great, just back from my morning walk with Nellie our whippet.

 

We’re big fans of your work here at Duckfeet, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Oh gosh, well I’m a potter, so I spend most of the day up to my elbows in clay!

 

How did you get into pottery? Did you study ceramics?

I studied Ceramics at VCA straight out of school. I loved clay. After art school, I did lots of short courses in pottery until I learnt how to throw. And then it’s just gone from there. Now I make pottery full time and have to pinch myself every morning!

 

What do you think the role of the potter is today? Because we can buy a cheaply made mug from the supermarket, is pottery more about the art form now? Or is there as much a place for functional ceramics as ever and it’s more a matter of educating the consumer about the value of locally handmade?

That’s such an interesting question, I could bang about it for ages. But to keep it short; I think a hand thrown cup – there’s just something special about it. People often get in touch and say they use one of my bowls every morning for their muesli, or they have a special cup that they like to drink their tea out of. And it’s the object, the hand thrown cup or bowl that elevates those moments into a little zen escape.

So, to me, the role of the potter is building connection, to connect someone to something real and human, that’s been made with attention and care. But I think anything that’s handmade has that quality. When you wear a scarf knitted for you by a friend there’s a bit of that friend-ness there whenever you wear it So at some level I feel like I’m friends with all the people who use my pots.

 

Is there a conscious design process before you sit down at the wheel? Or do you just get stuck in?

The morning walk is sort of my mental planning process. I don’t draw so much unless I need to remember something. So I walk and visualise what I’m going to make or how I’m going to resolve something. But the work happens at the wheel, that’s when curves and forms take their shape.

 

Your beautiful work has a very honest, textural quality. Has your style changed over time? Who or what is/are your current influence(s)?

I think it’s maybe become more confident over time and perhaps more honest. Honest is a great word, I like that people can see the evidence of how a pot was made. You can see throwing marks, drips, how a handle was attached, I like to leave that evidence behind.

  

One of the lovely things about being a working potter (I imagine) is having a direct relationship with your customers. Is there ever a tension though between what you like making and what sells? If so, how do you work with that?

I’m very lucky in that I just make pots that I want to make. I’m constantly experimenting. At the moment, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about using raw, naturally occurring materials; so, I’m digging up clay at building sites, getting ash from friends’ fireplaces- it’s all a bit random and unknown. If I was trying to just make things for customers I don’t think I would have that freedom.

Where can people check out more of your work?

I have my work at Mr Kitly, and have random sales throughout the year so keep an eye on my Instagram for updates.

 

Thanks for the chat Sophie!

All images by Shantanu Starick http://shantanustarick.com

Connect with Sophie here:

Instagram: @sophie_harle

Website: www.sophieharle.com.au

Email: hello@sophieharle.com.au