This is the second article in our Spotlight blog series, where we interview our gorgeous European producers and give you a little insight into their worlds creating beautiful pieces for your home. L’Officina is the initiative of Sonia Girotto, who creates unique, handmade clay ceramic bowls, spoon rests, garden markers, tumblers (and much more!) to delightful effect. Working from her home studio in Turin, Italy, all of Sonia’s pieces reflect the rustic nature of her surroundings and it’s breathtaking beauty.
1. Sonia where did you learn how to create such beautiful pottery?
It’s been quite a complicated path that’s brought me here, in my studio. At first, I graduated in computer science because I loved maths and sciences.
I had been working for some years in Graphics Publishing and Computer Graphics, but my day job was too theoretical and my hands were always too clean…Finally I had an idea: to combine my scientific knowledge with my love for clay. Since I was a child I loved playing with earth, and so began the adventure of my studio: L'Officina.Here I can play with clay with the accuracy of the rules of physics that determine the glaze recipes and the temperature curves of my kiln.
I took classes from a ceramist from Faenza: Giovanni Cimatti. He taught me all the ceramic techniques I use in my work, and also all high temperature skills. I learned to wheel throw by the ceramist Romana Pavan and the technique of molds from Mr. Labichella. I’m forever grateful to them for the skills I possess today.
2. Have you always been a creative person? What are some of your inspirations?
Yes, I have always had a passion to make things and to understand how things can work. I'm very curious. My mind is always churning. I love walking into a hardware store - for me it’s a source of great inspiration. I like building things with wood, changing colours on the walls of my home, cooking and gardening.
I have always loved art and aesthetics. I like surrounding myself with simple but beautiful things, taking care of my garden with my roses, with my little chicken coop where I host hens, a strange rooster, and a rabbit who will probably die of old age, (but not in the pot for sure!)
I think that in small things you can find true beauty. Everything around me is a source of inspiration. Luckily I live in a house in the woods and nature surrounds me with its beauty. Flowers, animals, wood with their endless shapes and colours. I like that I can try and replicate those shapes and textures in my pieces.
3. If you weren’t creating beautiful pottery pieces, what do you think you would be doing instead?
This is a good question. In my life I have dealt with several jobs, I tried to do different things and all have led me right here where I am now. I think that this work will give me a chance to put together all my knowledge. But, maybe I would be a carpenter!
4. Your ceramic pieces have a wonderful, earthy feel to them, is this texture a skill that takes a long time to develop?
When I asked my teacher if a technique was difficult, he answered me that every simple gesture you make is the result of a long journey. With ceramics, it works the same way, everything comes from experience that mature over the years, so there is nothing simple or difficult indeed.
In particular, for textures, I find inspiration in other areas, for example in the kitchen or in the garden. I often use kitchen tools or items that come from the garden to give character to my pottery.
5. What is in a typical day for you?
In addition to being a ceramicist I’m also the mother of two sons: Gaia is 17 and Giacomo is 11. My day spread around my studio, where I usually work in the morning and when my sons are at school. Then there is my house, my garden and my animals. So many things to do, but my head is always behind a new form of a teapot or a color for a glaze. I can get a little distracted.
6. Sonia, you live in Turin, Italy. Can you tell us a bit about Turin? What is it like to live there?
Really, I live near Turin in a little town close to the Alps. My house is in the wood and meadows, on a hill overlooking Turin.
Turin is a beautiful city full of old charm. It is magical and beautiful in every seasons, you can take a walk along the river Po or visit the Mole where you can view the Alps and is in a nice part of the Po Valley, or visit the beautiful Egyptian Museum, or watch a play in one of the most beautiful theatres in Italy, the Carignano. Turin is an elegant city and after the Olympic Games in 2006 is even more beautiful. Really I don’t go often in the city because I like the quietness of my wood, while in the city there is always a lot of noise.
7. Being Italian, we assume you must be a very good cook! What’s your best Italian dish?
I love cooking because it’s creative. In my country there are many typical dishes. It would be a cliche to say that I like cooking pasta or pizza! But my favorite is cooking dishes based on the products from my garden or eggs from my chickens. I make a very good ice cream, soft, yellow and sweet.
8. What’s your favourite part about creating handmade pieces?
My favorite part in ceramic production is wheel throwing. When I work on the wheel I can concentrate fully. My thoughts go to my fingertips. There's just more the feel of the clay that takes shape among my fingers. It’s a state of perfect balance that makes me feel good.
9. Is there anywhere in Europe you’d really like to visit? Why?
Europe contains a fascinating set of countries, and unfortunately I have not yet visited them all. The north attracts me a lot, particularly Norway and Finland. I'd like to visit forests and fjords. I love the taste of these people: simple but beautiful. And then of course the great capitals. I'd definitely return to Paris, but also would visit London and Berlin.
10. What is your favourite part about living in Italy?
I've never lived in other places and my roots are firmly embedded in my country. Just to be clear I live in my grandparents' house where they had the same surname of their village. Although now, in Italy, there are many problems related to the crisis and the lack of work, I know that my place is here and would not live anywhere else.
11. What’s next for L’Officina?
I’ve hung sheets in my studio where I’ve noted many new projects. One of these is a stoneware line, which is somehow customizable with images provided directly by the customer. Stay tuned!
Thank you Sonia! To see some of her beautiful handmade pieces that are Mora Approved, click here.