Sophie Mannessiez-Guinet is another heart-stopping ceramic artist working in Quebec, Canada. I was seduced by the sensuality of her Ubuntu Collection. I reached out to ask Sophie some questions about her work.
JW: Will you provide some information about your background and training?
SMG: I studied photography and visual arts for 4 years in Saint Luc in Belgium, that was a long time ago. Then I continued my studies in artistic communication by studying at ICART (École du Management de la Culture et du Marché de l’Art) and then event communication at L’EFAP (École Française des professionnels de la Communication) in Paris. I worked for 15 years in the organization of events and in 2007 I decided to change my career and professional world, to move towards something more artistic.
JW: Did you study sculpture with Gabrielle Wambaugh? Will you tell me about that experience?
SMG: Before even considering converting my profession, I had decided to reconnect with a creative activity. I chose clay because I remembered how I was in awe of being a kid watching a potter with the wheel. Clay looked so sweet. It was the material that appealed to me.
Gabrielle Wambaugh taught hobby sculpture classes in the evenings. I signed up for two sessions I believe. Gabrielle gladly shared her universe and her freedom of expression. She gave us a theme and encouraged us a lot to tap into our instinct, the spontaneous idea that emerged in us when the theme was announced, without any justification. Through these courses I discovered clay and its infinite possibilities and it was thanks to Gabrielle’s teaching that I was able to consider going into the field of ceramics.
JW: What attracted you to ceramics?
SMG: It’s mainly the matter itself. I love its touch, its texture and the universe of possibilities it offers. It was part of my childhood where I grew up by the North Sea in France. I loved building castles and sculptures with sand, water and seashells. I have always liked the contact with matter, kneading, shaping, modeling, these are gestures that I really like to practice and repeat.
JW: Have you tried other materials other than porcelain? What made you select porcelain rather than other materials?
SMG: During my first training at the Ceramuse Studio in the Paris region, I had the opportunity to try out all kinds of clay: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. All of them had their own specifications, but the whiteness and the touch of the raw porcelain as fired when ripe appealed to me. I believe there was also a feeling of working with a noble material, a material that I associated with the magnificent porcelain sets of my grandmother.
JW: You seem to have several themes tied to your “collections”: linear collections of small circles (“Horizons”), grid-like collections of small circles (“Matrix”) and organic, starfish-like pieces (“Ubuntu” collection). Do you work on these 3 collections at the same time? Or did you start with one and move on to another?
SMG: My organic sculptures are the first sculptural pieces that I have worked on. In 2007, I made a hanging sculpture made of porcelain picks. I loved working on this simple shape and repeating it, then stitching them together to form something else entirely. The first one saw the light of day in 2009. I resumed exploring this organic form in 2017. Since then, I never tire of creating them in porcelain or black stoneware. The other collection is made from small oval porcelain chips.
From this simple shape I explored two avenues: one was to fragment a horizon line through these little chips and the other to repeat it and sew them together to form a porcelain fabric.
JW: What is the source of inspiration for each of your collections?
SMG: For the Ubuntu collection, it is the multiplication of unity to form something quite different: the multiplication of a simple form to result in the production of complex, delicate and organic structures. For Horizons and Matrix, I am still in this exploration of the multiplication of unity. It’s just the original shape that has changed. It’s no longer the peak and oval lozenge. The initial form is a pretext, it sometimes becomes a construction element (Matrix), a drawing support (Horizons).
More generally, my sources of inspiration are varied: nature inspires me a lot, its shapes, its colors, its contrasts of materials and textures, its strength and weakness too. My travels are also an important source of inspiration, the atmospheres, the colors, the cultures that I discover. Finally, our society impacts my eyes, my mood and my reflections, but I do not wish at this time to have an politically engaged art.
JW: Repetition seems to be a strong element in your work. Do you know why? Is it purely an aesthetic choice?
SMG: Indeed it is the basis of my work. It’s true that repetition brings an aesthetic, but that’s why I believe it is aesthetic. First of all, I like the repeating gesture. I also like the meditative aspect of the repetition. It is the repetition itself that guides the construction of the final piece.
JW: Where do you see yourself going forward? Are you working on any new collection now?
SMG: Currently I have put my artistic practice on hold for several months to concentrate on my courses in ceramic technique. I am reinforcing my techniques, especially filming, and learning better management of my work. Currently I am working on my graduation project, an entire collection of pottery pieces. Pottery, utility pieces, that’s something I wanted to explore. At the same time, I am currently working on a sculptural piece where I mix the Ubuntu universe and the plate.
JW: Is there anything else you would like to say about your work?
SMG: I have a lot of plans: in May 2021 I finish school, then in June I move with my family to the countryside where I would have the chance to have my own workshop. I have a sketchbook full of sculptural projects and vessels. I have a lot of work to do as they say!
You can see more of Sophie’s work on her website.
Sophie also directed me to the following short video depicting some of her process: