Monday, June 11, 2012

Creative paths travelled

I need to get something off my chest and what better forum than my own, neglected blog. I have a two-part tale to tell that might get a little wordy and possibly emotional but here goes...

Since the start of last year I have been developing new work. The time is ripe for a new direction. I have not been in a hurry, exploring ideas and incorporating personal experiences as they arise. Initially my desire was to work with new, braver colours while still using the matt exterior/ gloss interior that I love. I started to colour porcelain and fell in love with the results.


Needing to make a point of difference with other coloured porcelain wares currently available, I began experimenting with inlay, abstracting my previous urban iconography and enjoying this progression in my work.


Personal issues are bound to express themselves in creative endeavours and the death of my mother has had a huge impact on this new work. Nostalgia has crept into my form development and, no doubt, into my choice of colours. 

I inherited a collection of beautiful, traditional tea cups and saucers such as the one above and I loved the nod to ceramics of my mother’s era when one blue stain I tested appeared so like Wedgwood Jasper-ware blue. 


There is still work to be done. The cup above is not particularly great to drink from, for example, so I have plans to resolve the form. But recently I have felt this new work is finally at a point where it is fit for public consumption. It will always be developing but I feel ready to start getting it out there. 


This blog has been so neglected of late as I have been busy taking photos, designing a new wholesale catalogue, putting my mind to pricing and making, making, making. Finally I took a collection of bottles, beakers, carafes and bowls in a range of colours to a store last week.

So here is where the tale takes a turn. 
First some background...

For those that are unaware I am a big fan of potter Lucie Rie. Her work was brought to my attention early in my ceramic career when a friend noticed parallels in our work, dark matt exteriors with scratched lines and minimal, functional forms. I was amazed by some similarity in our pieces, made some fifty years apart - she an Austrian living in London, myself, at the time, inspired by patterns and markings in the Australian landscape. 

Lucie Rie

Sophie Milne

I was aware that I liked her work because it was like my own and conscious, from that point on, of recognising her influence but not wanting to imitate.

Recently a new biography was published, Lucie Rie: ModernistPotter by Emmanuel Cooper, and as soon as I heard about it I ordered a copy and checked the post box daily for its arrival. Last Friday it came. I stowed the package in my pannier, rode straight to my studio, made myself a coffee and undid the cardboard wrapping. Mmmm, the cover image is beautiful, I flipped it over to look at the back and imagine my astonishment when I laid eyes on this image...

Holy Fuck.  

How could I not have known Lucie Rie designed work for Wedgewood? How could this cup and saucer, made in 1963, be so similar to one I just promised a store owner?? How could I have created new work so different from my previous work and still it looks like Lucie Rie’s??? And why oh why did this come to my attention the day after I made my first delivery?!

In the past few days I have gone through a mixture of devastation, feeling my work is unoriginal, self doubt that I hadn’t seen or been aware of this work before (but I honestly don’t think I have), fear that any deliberate changes I now make to my own work will feel contrived and a small, strange element of pride that I design work so like my idol’s. 

I have calmed down a little now and realise that the majority of this new work is not so similar. I am beginning to feel somewhat stoic. I will let go of the Jasperware blue for now, I have many other coIours and forms. I am a creative person, I can roll with the punches, I will continue to develop this work in the personal and honest way I have done to date and it will not be the same as Lucie Rie’s!

Tomorrow ...  the studio.

Today... I just needed to get this off my chest.


Adriana Christianson said...


Anna said...

My sympathy for the loss of your mother. It's two years now since my own mother passed away but I still miss her.
As for your "Jasperware" I'm sure all potters would have had a similar experience with making ware accidently similar to another maker particularly those who make functional ware. Perhaps Lucie and your Mum were sending vibes your way :^) (no disrespect)Love the coloured clay btw

Jane said...

Sophie, amazing story but don't give up on the blue if it's important to can still make your own work and don't get too hung up on how close it is to your idol's - there's also the zeitgeist and whatever you make will be yours....the world is big enough! Continue the development - it's probably just how Dame Lucie did it too!

Elaine Bradley said...

Sophie stick with your original plan and vision. Why doubt yourself? You were not copying, your own aesthetic took you here. How many people would even join the dots? How many contemporary Buyers/collectors would even know of Lucy? I honestly saw your blue work as your voice nd not as anything less.

amy h said...

I completely relate to this. I am still a beginning potter, and after I started working on a few pieces with a series of etched lines, I discovered Lucie Rie. I felt like I was copying and didn't even mean to. I showed my husband the photos, and was astonished at how much my own aesthetic was like hers. Now I am torn between devouring every book I can find about her (waiting for the book you mentioned to be released here), and isolating myself from photos of her work so I am not influenced too much! I think maybe there must be something in the general zeitgeist right now that parallels or has been influenced by her and her era's aesthetic. That is all I can figure. I'm not sure what to tell you about your new work though -- only that it is both beautiful and amazingly similar to hers. Perhaps yours will continue to evolve as you make more pieces?

Sophie Milne said...

Thank you all. I had a feeling it might be an experience similar to others and there would be general understanding. Just had to say it out loud to move on.

One day soon I might even be able to pick up that beautiful book again and actually read it! But one step at a time.

lynny said...

Hi Sophie, your work is sublime. You have a strong work ethic, and thats exactlly why this whole story had you so distressed. Remember, EVERYTHING has been done before, and I am sure every ceramic artist out there has discovered their work resembles someone else's. Keep going and enjoy the journey. ps. I too am passionate about coloured porcelain!

Shannon Garson said...

Dear Sophie,
You are a thoughtful, hard working artist, the initial point of similarity will somehow become less obvious as you keep making these forms more and more your own. Have faith in yourself, you'll find a way through to something original and completely Sophie!

sophie said...

I'm not sure why this needs to be a problem. You've been working on a collection that's a nod to jasperware and so did lucie rie

I think it's a lovely coincidence and the sooner you stop beating yourself up over it and get back to throwing the better

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone above. I can see no reason to think you have copied anything. Because you haven't!