In light of our upcoming Handles Masterclass, we sat down with our friend and Pottery Teacher, Sofie Neuendorf to discuss her journey through Ceramics, teaching, and valuable lessons as a student. 

Raised by owners of an Interior Design Business, Sofie grew up surrounded by creativity and says her love of art was fostered and encouraged from a young age. In pursuing a career in Ceramics, Sofie has spent extensive amounts of time studying various techniques, expanding her skills and knowledge in the art. In 2022, Sofie spent three months in Japan with a six-week artist residency, alongside other mentoring opportunities becoming a significant part of who she is as an artist.

Sofie Neuendorf demonstrating her technique of attaching a handle to a mug.Handles prepared and lined-up on workbench by Sofie Neuendorf.

Sofie started her business, Lunio by Sofie, in 2014 while studying  Fine Arts at University, making and selling jewellery. Upon  Graduating, she continued to use the name for her ceramics when she set up her very own studio in 2018. Lunio means shape or form in Welsh and connects to the way she creates as an artist, the shape of each piece being the basis for all her ideas. 

You can check out her ceramics here. 

Sofie began teaching at Stone Studio in late 2020 when we first opened the doors to our studio and has taught a range of Pottery classes over the years, from Clay and Sips and Beginner Pottery Courses to our more Advanced Courses. We are thrilled to share our Masterclass with you, where Sofie will take you into a deep dive into Handles. 

Three mugs from Lunio by Sofie, showcasing the handles.

Q: When did you begin your ceramics journey and why?

A: I’ve been hand-building since I was six and began taking art classes after school. When I was 16, one of my teachers taught me how to wheel-throw and instantly fell in love. I decided to pursue a career in ceramics after high school. 

 

Q: You spent some time in Japan to study ceramics. What did you go to learn and why?

A: I aimed to learn more about wood firing and immerse myself in Japanese culture and how this influences their ceramic styles. I was accepted into the Shiro Oni Artist Residency in Onishi, Japan. The culmination of the residency was firing an Anagama (a style of wood kiln), which originated in Japan centuries ago. I then travelled to some Ancient Kiln Towns and did another Anagama firing in Tamba-Sasayama. 

 

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from your time in Japan? Do you believe it changed the way you look at the artform?

A: I think the biggest takeaway was how respected ceramics are in Japan. They make up such an integral part of their cultural history. There are museums, specifically about ceramics and whole towns dedicated to the craft that has been producing pottery for a thousand years. There has absolutely been a change to my style of work. The pieces I’m making now are much more fluid and organic, with a strong influence from traditional Japanese forms.

Pottery tools and equipment laid out on work bench, showcasing mugs with handles made by Sofie Neuendorf.

Q: What interests you about the process of Wood-Firing compared to electric kiln firing?

A: I saw my first wood kiln in Japan in 2017, I began participating in a wood firer’s firings when I moved to the Northern Rivers. The thing about wood firing is it is so unpredictable. A piece goes into the kiln bare, then emerges, transformed by ash and flame. There is a lot of problem-solving involved. Every kiln and firing is different with so many variables. Each requires knowledge of what to change if things aren’t working or the kiln is stalling. Whereas, firing an electric kiln is very straightforward. You glaze your pieces, put them in the kiln, and turn it on with the same results almost every time. Wood firings are also inherently community-based, Anagama firings cannot run smoothly without a support network and everyone pitching in.

 

Q: You have been helping build a wood-firing kiln. What does that process look like?

A: It is a process, unlike anything I have done before. It is laborious and slow as every step needs to be precise as it affects all other stages. It’s been a lot of bricklaying, brick cutting, maths and geometry. These are very different principles from my day-to-day in the studio, where my practice is much more intuitive and free-flowing. In its own way, it has been a beautiful process seeing this structure be created from the ground up, entirely made from bricks. 

 

Q: You have been teaching with us for a while now. What is your favourite part about teaching? Do you have plans to integrate your learnings from Japan and wood-firing into any of your classes?

A: Teaching at Stone has been immensely fulfilling for me, to engage with the broader ceramics community and share my passion with others. My favourite aspect of teaching is helping students explore a new topic or technique and find their niche within ceramics. Seeing students discover what they are passionate about has been more enriching than I ever thought. Absolutely, I hope to share some of the things I learnt in Japan. I still feel I’m figuring out my voice in ceramics and always have areas to improve. However, I'm often chatting with Jen and Brad about what exciting workshops we can create and this upcoming handle one is the first of many. 

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