In the Studio With Jacqui Sosnowski
Tell us a little about your background and what led you to working with ceramics
I graduated from Monash Uni with an Arts degree in English and History. Got involved with experimental theatre and travelled all around Australia performing, then settled down after the theatre company broke up and dabbled in pottery as a hobby for a couple of years. My husband Sam and I moved to the country where our house (and my pottery wheel) burned down, so you could say life got in the way.
After having two kids, I worked both in education as an English teacher and in the corporate world. When we moved from Brisbane to Mullumbimby, I thought it might be nice to do something with my hands - so I got back into pottery - with a vengeance! I completed a Diploma in Ceramics at TAFE in Lismore and then went on to do an Advanced Diploma. During that I got a wheel and the kiln and found my way back to it, it’s so addictive. I set up my Studio in our garage at home, which I share with my talented print-maker husband, and am out here every day throwing pots!
Your house burned down? How do you feel that has shaped your journey?
We bought a lovely little farm just out of Melbourne, and worked our butts off renovating and building on to the cottage to make it a comfortable home. After four years we decided to go on a holiday to Bali to celebrate finally finishing the renovation. We went for two weeks and during the first week, our beautiful house burnt down! We lost all our stuff - Sam and I were both collectors of antiques and furniture - and everything went. There was absolutely nothing left except a big black square on the ground. When we came back from Bali, we decided to sell up and move to the mid North Coast, where we started all over again.
It's kind of funny that now we are both really into fire by firing all my pots in a raku style - it's very elemental, primitive and hands-on, and maybe it's just our way of coming to terms with what happened?
So the raku and obvara techniques that make your work so unique - how did you come across them?
So the obvara is a type of raku. I don’t know if I’m the only one in Australia working in this way, but certainly the only one who’s doing it consistently. I fell into it, really. I stumbled upon it online and something really resonated with me. Might be because of my vaguely Eastern European background, as it’s a 12th century Baltic technique.
I’ve always liked the more primitive firing like raku, I’m not really into the shiny glazy stuff. I’m also not very chemically minded, and you’ve gotta do a lot of measuring and know your chemistry to do glazes!
I love the serendipity of it all as well, where clearly at its origins a pot must’ve been sitting by a fire and rolled into a bucket of slops, becoming a beautiful accident.
What does creativity mean to you?
I think everyone’s creative. My parents said - "you can’t make a living out of art, you can always do it as a hobby”, so I ended up being an English teacher. And I kind of regretted it at the time. I guess having all that life experience doesn’t go to waste, though.
I love to challenge myself and I also get bored very easily (I wouldn't be much good making hundreds of cups that are all the same). I also have a real love of learning and like to try lots of different things. I guess that's maybe what being creative is all about to me - just sitting down and trying things. There’s a yiddish expression called “sitzfleisch” which means “flesh that you sit on”. To focus and sit there and actually practice, practice, practice. Do the work. I think I’ve got a fair bit of that in me!
With creativity, I think everyone should just follow their hearts. (That sounds very Mullum, doesn’t it?) If you love doing something, you should do it. And you do get good!
What inspires you?
LIFE inspires me!!! I gain inspiration just from waking up in the morning! But I think most of my inspiration comes from nature and seeing natural forms and textures all around me.
I like the hands-on aspect. It’s so tactile. There’s so many different ways to go, I guess? It’s infinite, what you can do with clay. You can hand-build, you can slab build, coil build, wheel throw, you can do big or small or functional or sculptural pieces. And the feel of the clay is fabulous.
I really do appreciate that people like my work. Often I come into the studio and I’m not really sure what to make or I’m at a bit of a loss for inspiration, but if somebody like Bodhi Living says - we need some tall jars or big vases - then it gives me an imputes to make it and get creative.