Welcome to the sunlit studio of ceramic artist Simone Nabholz. In her space at Stackwood, Simone has created an oasis which encapsulates calm and creativity.
Simone’s story is one that many people can identify with. Facing burnout in her corporate job she took a break and enrolled in a ceramic class at Fremantle Arts Centre. During the course of the workshop she not only achieved her aim of slowing down and doing something with her hands, but also started in motion a career as a maker which would propel her quickly into starting her own studio, Winterwares.
When you speak to Simone about her practice, making sounds like a sort of meditation. Here we chat to her about how she started, recent collaborations with other creatives and her plans for the future of Winterwares.
How did you get started working with clay?
I enrolled in a short course at Fremantle Arts Centre . I wanted to do something completely different from what i did at work which was sit at a desk all day. I wanted to do something with my hands.
That was my first experience using clay and it was much harder than I thought it would be! I did a wheel throwing course. I had a really clear image in my mind of the shape of the bowl I wanted to make and couldn’t quite get there - it was frustrating. But I instantly felt passionate about clay.
What’s the appeal for you of working with clay?
The process - it’s such a grounding thing because the clay is dug up from the earth. It’s a really calming process. You can’t rush it. I had to completely rethink the way I work. I had to slow down.
I love the idea that something I’ve made could last, and be useful for decades. I love that the pieces are so functional. Every time I use something I’ve made it reminds me to slow down and appreciate the little things.
What inspired the name Winterwares?
Winter was my Grandmother’s maiden name. I didn’t have my Grandmother in my life for very long but I adored her, she was so full of life. I think she had quite an influence on me.
The name fit well because I really like the idea of embracing the seasons. I think if you can live within the seasons; eat food that’s in seasons, go with the flow, then you’re living well.
How do you go about designing your range - whats the process?
The very first piece I ever made was the pasta bowl. I had the design in my mind - I couldn’t find it anywhere. Everything has evolved from that piece.
My process is all making and remaking. Some of my pieces are completely hand built; the vases and latte cups. The dinnerware is based around moulds. I make a mould from a clay shape which I recreate with plaster.
If it’s a new piece the thing that takes the longest is getting the size right, because everything shrinks in the kiln. It could take me 6-8 weeks to get the prototype right and then 2 -3 weeks to make each piece.
What do you find is the most challenging thing about running a creative business?
Working on your own can be difficult. That’s part of the reason I enjoy being at Stackwood; it alleviates some of that isolation.
For me, the main challenge has been having to wear so many hats. In addition to producing the range I’m the marketing person and the person who orders and ships everything. But the benefits far outweigh the challenges for me.
Have you had any ‘Ah-huh’ moments or really great moments you could share?
So many! When I put up a picture of the first bowl I made on Instagram and a restaurant contacted me saying they wanted a few hundred of them. At that stage I was rolling out clay with a rolling pin on my kitchen table! It was crazy but I did it. At the beginning i just said ‘yes’ to everything.
The first time a magazine contacted me for a feature. The first time a stylist used my work for a shoot. The first time someone contacted me to hire my plates for their wedding.. So many great moments.
Probably one of the best surprises I’ve had doing this has been collaborating with other creatives. That’s been really exciting; to collaborate with people who are doing awesome, creative things.
Any notable collaborations?
When I collaborated with The Little Posy co. to make vases for mothers day, that was really special. The Secret Supper gatherings; it was really nice to see what they did with my plates.
I did a workshop in collaboration with Studio Anthro about slow living. It’s great to see how these things evolve.
Can you tell me about your workshops?
The workshops are something new for me. Making things with your hands gives such a sense of fulfilment, which only really comes from crafting something from scratch. I know when I’ve spent the day making I feel so calm and centred. It’s an experience I wanted to share with people.
It’s so rare to have a job where you work in such a relaxed, calm space. My workshops are a way of letting others experience that for a day. I hope people leave feeling nourished and connected, like their cup is a little fuller than when they arrived.
What advice would you give someone just starting out creating a product range?
Your product should be beautiful quality, tried and tested. Once you know you have a good product, don’t wait for everything else in your business to be perfect to launch it, just get it out there!
Don’t be afraid to contact people you admire and ask for their advice - I’ve found it to be a really supportive industry. Most people are more than happy to help and share their experiences.
What is on your studio playlist? Top tracks?
I’ve been listening to a lot of 70’s soul music lately. And Nina Simone, always. And if you haven’t heard President Obama’s Summer playlist your missing out, trust me!
What’s next for Winterwares? Any exciting plans for the future?
I want to go and spend some time refining my craft in Japan. Something that has become apparent in my practice is the wabi sabi aesthetic. I’d really like to explore that more. I’m currently working with a few restaurants to create their dinnerware, can’t say too much yet but stay tuned on my Instagram!
Find Winterwares ceramics online and book one of her 2017 workshops here. Simone is also running a crowd funding campaign to help fund a new kiln for her studio, find out more and pledge today on Pozible.