Sophie Cook | In conversation with Contemporary Ceramics

Our exhibition program starts the new year with Sophie Cook who brings colour to the gallery.

Sophie creates delicate porcelain silhouettes that marry the elements of colour and form. Based on the Suffolk coast, she throws bottles, pods and teardrop forms on the wheel, constantly refining and evolving these shapes. She develops her own palette of glazes, ranging in colour from pale neutrals to deep amber, navy and aubergine. Colours are developed to connect individual vessel through shade and tone, and her bottles – no two identical – sit strongly as individual works and when arranged in groups form compelling collections.

We were curious to know more about Sophie's creative practice and to discover other influences in her life. You can find out more below...

Sophie Cook | In conversation with Contemporary Ceramics

Contemporary Ceramics: Why do you do what you do?

Sophie Cook: I love making, creating, using my hands. I get a real sense of wellbeing from turning the pieces on the wheel.
Sophie Cook | Exhibition view | Photo: Dee Honeybun

CC: What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

SC: We had a book at home of Victorian art and there was a painting of a young brother and sister who were orphaned and out on the street. When I was about three or four years old my big brother would get the book out and show me the picture because I would always burst into tears.

CC: How did you first get involved in working with clay?

SC: I used to love Fimo modelling clay when I was about ten years old and used to make wizards and creatures...but actually working in clay would have been at Camberwell when I did my Foundation course. We tried out ceramics, fine art, graphics and textiles. I decided to specialise in textiles but my sister had just finished her degree in woven textiles and said there weren’t any jobs in it, so I decided to apply for the ceramics BA instead. It all seems a bit bizarre thinking back, I didn’t even have any clay work to show them in the interview.
Sophie Cook | Exhibition view | Photo: Dee Honeybun

CC: What images keep you company in the space where you work?

SC: I don’t really have any wall space in my studio, so I only have a few drawings my boys have done for me. What keeps me company all day is listening to books through Audible, I’m a really slow reader so listening to them is just perfect.

CC: How do you work? 

Sophie Cook | Exhibition view | Photo: Dee Honeybun
 SC: I can throw four vessels in a day.  I dry them for two days and then I carve them down,to refine their shape slightly.They are left to dry for a week, and then I spray on the glaze.I know I’ll be making the same form for that particular day. I refine the shape each time I throw. This happens on the wheel...So today, I have been trying to make more jar forms...vessels with open tops rather
than tight necks. I look at the last oneI've thrown and try to make the next better.

CC: How has your practice changed over time?

SC: I used to work twelve hours a day in Cockpit Art studios with loads of other makers, now it’s just me in my studio in the garden in really rural surroundings, trying to fit as much as I can within the school day. It’s hard not being around other makers to bounce ideas off but it’s great that I can leave the kids in the house and escape to the studio to work.

CC: How does working with clay influence your life beyond the workshop?

Sophie Cook | Exhibition view | Photo: Dee Honeybun
 SC: Hmm, not sure how to answer that one. I have to see an osteopath regularly to sort out my aching neck from being twisted over all day and my hands look like an eighty year old. Not the intellectual answer you’re probably after.

CC: What role does the potter/ceramist have in the 21st Century?

 SC:I don’t think I analyse there being a particular role for a potter. I just think of it as a great job to create and make and to work for yourself…disclaimer, that’s when things are going well. The rest of the time it’s infuriating, exhausting and constant. 

Sophie Cook | Multiplicity at Contemporary Ceramics until the 8th February 2020.


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