studio emma sophia hutspot

Studio emma sophia: ‘I love to work with my hands’

Interviews

Studio emma sophia is a ceramics atelier that produces functional pottery. All cups, bowls and plates are created by designer Emma from beginning to end. We visited Emma in her Breda based, old prison building-turned-studio to discuss her designs, inspiration and trends.

Hi Emma. You studied Fine Art at Willem de Kooning in Rotterdam.
How did this background influence your view on ceramics?
At the academy, I was trained to approach my designs from a philosophical point of view. Often, I had to back-up my decisions with research to prove relevance. Today, I am very happy to work more autonomous and to base my decisions on my own style and functionality. 

Contrary, I am trained to think about design in relation to the world and I have questioned what my role in this industry is for a long time. It did not seem right to add more products to a world already full of stuff.

Did you find an answer to these questions?
I now believe that I am a good alternative option for people looking to buy more sustainably. You are always welcome to visit my atelier and see how I make everything myself and how much work goes into one item. This way of working also changed my own perspective on buying behavior. I love nice products and I am not ashamed of this. However, I now think twice before I buy something and I put durability at the top of my priority list.

studio emma sophia hutspot

Being a more sustainable alternative is extremely important in a world where we are constantly stimulated to buy more.
I agree, but don’t get me wrong: I am not claiming to be the ‘best’ option. I use a lot of electricity for my oven and the materials I use are not 100% sustainably sourced. However, I recycle as much as possible, studio emma sophia is part of an anti-squat housing plan and I create everything with my own hands. Furthermore, all my products are designed to last a lifetime. I sometimes fantasize about being able to dig up my own clay at the local farmer. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of skill and knowledge. Maybe someday!

Could you take us through the creation process?
It is important to know your mix of clay, its weight and how it responds to movement. It took me years to perfect this. Also, there are many different ways to approach the making process. This is how I work at studio emma sophia:

First, you mold the clay to get the air out. After this, you start shaping the clay on a pottery wheel. This usually takes about 5 – 10 min per item, depending on the design. Afterward, the design needs to dry a but, but not fully. After this, there is time to fix the bottom or to add extra features or details. When ready, the clay goes into the oven (12 hours of heating, then 12 of hours cooling). After this, it is time to add the glazing, which is important to make the design waterproof. The final step involves another 24 hours in the oven. From beginning to end, an average design takes about 2 weeks to finish.

studio emma sophia hutspot

Your aesthetic can be described as raw and authentic. How did this develop?
I was inspired by a certain mix of clay used in a ceramic workshop I attended. I loved the color so much that I did not feel like adding anything. When mixing the clays myself, it created an effect that reminded me of a marble pattern. You can see it as a happy accident. I am not a huge fan of glazing (I do for some parts because of quality), so I try to leave the raw touch of the material present in my designs. I think it is very interesting to see how people notice the touch and interact with the material while drinking from, for example, a cup.

Are there any other things that inspire, for example, shape?
Functionality is very important within tableware. I cannot stop to wonder how you can prevent your fingers from sliding into food when serving dinner on ultra-flat and minimal plates. Because people use my products daily, I find it important to design according to how people would use my ceramics. I also love to look at my peers to see what design decisions they make. I see a lot of people influencing each other and I see this as a good thing.

Are there certain trends within ceramics that you notice?
I notice that handcrafted and unique products are something that people are drawn too. This probably is a counter effect on mass production. I love how this supports young entrepreneurs and designers to work autonomously.

However, what I dislike is how big brands are noticing this trend too. Some tend to position mass production like authentic and unique. This bothers me because it is nothing like what I, or others in this industry, do. I am bothered by this because it deceives consumers with ideas that I am personally against. 

studio emma sophia hutspot

How can you imagine further developments changing your aesthetic?
I love to work with my hands, so it is very hard for me to imagine that I would embrace, for example, 3D printing techniques. However, aesthetic can always change and trends seem to come back often. Lastly, I believe tableware will never change drastically in shape unless our entire way of eating will change. It is interesting to fantasize about this.

Any future projects for studio emma sophia that you can share?
I have a lot of ideas, but I am currently focussing on perfecting my current line of products. Because I make everything myself, it is hard for me to deliver tons of products in one go if someone wants to collaborate.

In the future, I would love to take time to experiment with more abstract shapes. I aim to think out of the box and to come up with new designs. However, this requires a lot of experimentation and time. Stay tuned!


Shop a selection of ceramics by studio emma sophia at Hutspot Breda.