Sophie Nolan is a ceramic artist based in beautiful Bilgola Beach, on the NSW coast. Crafted using traditional hand-building techniques, her one-of-a-kind vessels celebrate the human form, focusing on the beauty of our unique imperfections, curves, nuances, and individualism. We visited her home to chat about her art practice as well as how we can deepen and transform our relationship with the everyday objects around us.
After studying Visual Communications at university and working for several years as a Graphic Designer, your sideline passion for clay became your primary focus. What can you tell us about your journey from Graphic Designer to Ceramicist?
I worked as a graphic designer for other studios and then for myself for many years; mostly loving it. In graphic design, I loved being able to take a client’s brief and help bring it into reality. After many years of doing this, though I really felt a need to do this for myself. To work to my own brief; ceramics became the perfect way for me to express myself creatively. After having my third daughter, I was looking for another creative outlet as graphic design wasn’t quite giving me the creative freedom that I craved. What started as a hobby making pinch pots with a friend, became my main creative obsession.
Crafted using traditional hand-building techniques, your one-of-a-kind vessels celebrate the human form, focusing on the beauty of our unique imperfections, curves, nuances, and individualism. What inspired you to explore this subject matter in your practice?
After growing and birthing three children, and experiencing the immense changes the body goes through during pregnancy, all previous hang-ups on what my body ‘should’ look like seemed far less significant. Instead, I began to focus on the unique abilities of the body, and how amazing, complex, and unique they are. No one form is exactly like another.
I'm also very fascinated by genetics. The way similar curves, angles, idiosyncrasies, and beautiful imperfections get passed onto our children. My work celebrates the magic of our individual shapes, exploring my fascination with our different characteristics, how we hold ourselves, our beliefs, race, styles, and energy.
Each piece or form can have its own personality or presence, but despite these differences, when put together, they can bounce off each other, work together, become an even greater more beautiful force. We can see this both on a personal relationship and friendship level and on a greater scale internationally. I hope my work can put a positive spin on our precious uniqueness; a celebration of our differences and hush our critical inner demons and judging neighbours.
Sophie wears the High Waist Flare Jean in Vintage White.
The intentional use of colour or lack thereof in your work makes for a striking contrast. Can you tell us more about this stylistic choice?
I feel that my shapes and forms are the hero in my work, not the colour. I believe the subtlety of colour helps emphasise and celebrate the curves and angles of the vessels. The simple monochrome palette creates the perfect balance between sensual softness and a dramatic commanding presence. I also love a serene minimal neutral palette and the sense of zen it creates for all decor preferences from the classic to the eclectic.
By attaching a personality to a functional form your work encourages us to deepen and transform our relationship with the everyday objects around us. In what ways do you think your practice has influenced the way you curate the objects you keep in your home?
I think it has influenced my choices and what I put into my home. I prefer to put in pieces that not only are beautiful to look at (great design, quality, and craftsmanship) but that also have meaning or a story behind them. My slow made, one of a kind vessels blur the line between what is usually considered mainly a functional object and what might be labelled sculpture or art.
In a world where things are cheaply mass-produced (with all that correlates with that: lack of soul and love in the object, cheap labour, less sustainable, etc), I seek to provide a more unique quality functional piece that has the intention of bringing personality, energy and perhaps even intrigue to a home. Hopefully promoting a shift away from filling our homes with mass-produced trend-based objects and towards more intentional sustainable styling choices.
What are some of your favourite pieces in your home, and where did they come from?
I have a lot of favourite pieces in my home. I especially love all of my art. Every piece of artwork continues to bring me joy and evoke an emotional response from me. They literally bring a smile to my face each time I walk past or cast my gaze over them. That’s when you know you bought well) I also love our bone inlay chest in our bedroom and carved Moroccan side table in our lounge room. I am in awe of the craftsmanship and skill used to create such detailed beauty.
What materials, textures and colours are you drawn to?
I am drawn to matte surfaces that have a bit of texture; an organic rawness to it. Nothing too shiny and new. I love linen, woollen rugs, aged timber and a neutral colour palette of black, ink, white, cream, and grey. I then add layers of colour with plants, greenery in vases and paintings. The mess and family fun of my husband, three children, and a puppy adds many more layers of colour!
What are your top tips for styling a minimal space?
I think it comes down to the way you edit! Try to choose wisely with an idea in mind of where the piece will sit within your home. That way you don’t fall into the trap of overconsumption and having to find a spot for your newly claimed item in an overcrowded space. I try not to over clutter a space; less is more as they say.
For me life feels busy enough, so I prefer to keep the feel of my home more simple and minimal; more pared back in style. It helps create a less cluttered, more peaceful mind. Plus, I really dislike dusting and cleaning, so keeping things simple minimises the need for this.
What do you love most about your neighbourhood, can you share with us your favourite places to eat/shop/visit?
I love that we are surrounded by nature; bush everywhere, Pittwater on one side and the ocean on the other. Our daily morning coffee spot is Billy’s cafe down at Bilgola Beach, great coffee and wonderful friendly locals. My other favourite place for dinner and drinks is Alma in Avalon. MamaPapa in Avalon is a treasure trove of everything divinely french and Knapstore, Splice and Natalie Alamein in Newport are all a hop skip and jump away from each other, perfect for a quick retail therapy fix.
What are you reading, watching, and listening to right now?
I am currently reading Phosphorescence by Julia Baird. A book I think should be on everyone’s list. It is all about finding the awe and wonder in life. I’ve just finished watching the Normal People series. It is a great adaptation of the book; perfectly cast. I love listening to podcasts while I work. My most recent discoveries are 'Good weekend Talks' and 'Art Wank’ by two other lovely local artists: informative and hilarious at the same time.
How do you like to nurture yourself; do you practice any self-care rituals?
In recent years I have found it easier to give myself self-care. I discovered the old "fill your cup up so it can overflow onto others" approach actually works. Exercise is a big self-care ritual for me, beach walks and swims are always top of my list, and having some time to read in the sun, undisturbed for more than 10 minutes is my ultimate luxury! I am very lucky that I have a job that in itself feels like I am self-nurturing. I love to get immersed in a piece I am creating, messy hands, music, or podcast in the background…bliss.