For the past seven years, potter Sophie Harle has worked from her Melbourne home studio to create deceptively simple-looking vessels in understated hues. For Harle, pottery “quiets the soul”, and her pieces certainly have that effect on the viewer as much as the maker. Indeed, “quiet” is a word that comes up time and again with Harle. She describes a good pot as one that has “a quiet form, sensitivity to materials, and honesty. I like to see the bones of a pot, to feel like when I hold a pot I can feel the person who made it,” she continues. “When you hold (or mostly just get to look at!) an old pot it’s like a little time machine back to when the pot was made.”
Harle’s own cups, bowls, teapots and other vessels have a similar effect, as a speckled surface or a deliberate drip in the glazing gives a hint to her own hand. These pieces may be quiet, but they speak volumes. To commence our new Journal series on creative life, Harle gives us a glimpse into her practice.
How would you describe your approach to pottery?
Experimental, I like to be trying new things all the time. I crave variety.
What kind of environment do you like in your studio?
My studio is a very calm, quiet, meditative space. I work in complete silence for some things and listen to audiobooks when I’m throwing repeat forms. But mostly it’s silent.
Do you like to have routines in your day, or do you prefer to be more free-flowing with your time?
I like a bit of routine. I go for a long walk every day and get coffee with Nellie our whippet. And my partner and I go bouldering three times a week. But my days are pretty flexible. Often a day will get gobbled up so I’ll work in the evening instead.
Who or what is inspiring your work at the moment?
Mostly I’m inspired by my materials. I really love just making forms and experimenting with clays and glazes. It’s the uncertainty of that exploration that really drives me.
Do your inspirations change often or shift more slowly?
My inspiration stays pretty consistent. And I think that interplay of materials, clay and fire, will keep me inspired for a long time.
Who else in your field do you admire?
Teppei Ono: his surfaces are stunning.
Hanako Nakazato: her work is sublime, her ideas, her craftsmanship, it’s all perfection.
Moon do Bang: amazing porcelain and his skills are off the charts.
Tetsuya Otani: so elegant and refined.
And that’s just a couple of modern Japanese and Korean potters off the top of my head – it’s not even the tip of the tip of the iceberg!
What do you find the most challenging part of running a creative business?
Juggling all the different roles. There’s so much other stuff, it can feel like you’re drowning in the other stuff, when you really just want to be making pots!
How do you reconcile or address these challenges?
Oh I don’t, I’m very, very bad at dealing with the other stuff. Pottery is what I love to do, it’s my happy place, so giving that time over to other, less interesting things can be difficult.
What do you think is your strongest skill?
Patience and perseverance. Everything about pottery seems to be difficult and take forever!
Where can we see your work at the moment?
Outside of your work, what else do you feel passionately about?
Rock climbing and knitting are my go to free-time activities. Apparently, I’m a glutton for repetition and frustration!
Written by Michelle Bateman
Photography by Shantanu Starick