Kent-based artist Sophie Southgate creates curious ceramic vessels that cross the boundary between functionality and abstractism. Using clay and splashes of colour within geometric forms, she aims to create questions of perception and space.
We chat to Sophie whilst lusting after how brilliant her work would look against some 80s Memphis Milano decor.
Describe a typical day of productivity, from morning to night.
Morning consists of several cups of tea to get me out of the house, and preferably a good breakfast. A typical day would begin with opening a test kiln and analysing the results from glaze or clays tests. I’d then pour a mould or two, and finish fettling a couple of pieces that had been drying overnight.
The afternoon would be spent making a new mould, which can take a couple of days. Then a quick tidy before heading home, followed by making new forms in paper, playing with patterns or doing general research. I try to get some social network things in there at some point too. And lots more cups of tea.
What are the benefits and challenges of working with ceramics?
The benefits from working with clay are huge, it is an incredibly diverse material and has so much potential for something so humble. You can really push clay to its limits. I also find it therapeutic, it helps stop me thinking too much and focuses my attention in the here and now.
The challenges are time, there is never enough time to do all the things I want to do, and it is very hard to choose which way to go at times. It is also messy and it can be pretty harmful if it is not worked with properly. My back aches regularly.
Colour is such an important element in your work. What informs your choices?
Choosing the colours for my pieces is one of the hardest jobs I do. I can’t force it, and if I’m not feeling creative I can’t make up my mind. I know the colour combinations I like, opposite ends of the colour chart in particular. I love bright vibrant bold colours, and I tend to use them as a way of getting the audiences’ attention.
How has your work evolved into the current collection you’ve just released?
The collection I am currently developing is a functional range of cast stoneware, using complex polyhedrons and Johnson’s Solids (geometry jargon alert!). I am trying to fuse the aesthetics of my previous work, Landscape//Colour — the sharp lines, strong form, a strong colour palette — with a range of functional homeware items that are strong, versatile and look good. My work has evolved from decorative luxury items of art, to simpler useful affordable homeware. Watch this space.
Watch this space indeed. Maybe our colourful retro dreams can finally be realised…Finally, name one thing your artistic career couldn’t have been without.
My artistic career would never have existed without the support and help of my family. They gave me time and space to work out what I wanted to do, and I when I told them clay was the way for me, they believed in me. They supported my dreams all the way.
Words by Alice Freeman