A chat with Sophie Copeland about her time at VCUArts, the ideas that influence her art, and challenges as a ceramic artist.


Interview and article by: Hope Ollivant

This past week I had the pleasure of interviewing a senior in the Craft and Materials Studies department, Sophie Copeland. I had seen her work in the lobby of the DePillars building as well as shared on social media. 

Sophie’s elegant and edgy ceramic pieces caught my eye, and I grew curious about the meaning behind her works. 

The power of social media helped me to track Sophie down so I could sit down with her and talk about her time at VCUArts, the ideas that influence her art, and challenges as a ceramic artist.

Hope: How did you get into Craft? When you applied to VCUArts did you imagine yourself as a Craft major?

Sophie:  I actually started out in sculpture. I was in sculpture for a year, and I wasn’t really feeling it. I was getting a little burnt out and wanted something new. I changed my major to craft in March 2020. When I applied to VCU, I applied with all paintings and drawings, and I had no idea what I wanted to do at all, but then I took space in AFO (art foundation) and that was life-changing. I was really into sculptural pieces, and that’s why I chose sculpture in the first place. I think craft was my second choice for my major, and even at that point I didn’t really know anything about craft.  I took Intro to Ceramics and that changed my mind while I was in sculpture. 

Hope: I’m seeing a theme of silver chains in recent works, where did the inspiration for that come from? Could you tell me about those two pieces?

Sophie: The “New Amphora” piece with the silver chain handles, that piece, and most of my work this semester have been inspired by the digital internet trends . I feel like I get a lot of chain imagery on all of my social media platforms, and that’s where it started. It kind of grew into this theme of hard and soft in my work, like the rose plate has the clouds and then the hard chain. I don’t know, I like that balance of hard and soft. Which is, I think, also me as a person. I really like those two ideas.

Hope: I saw recently you posted about your experience using the 3D printer and then also sculpted a similar lamp by hand. Could you tell me a little more about that? 

Sophie: My original concept for that was Sophie vs. The Machine, and I just wanted to see if I could challenge myself and my skills against the clay 3D printer. It’s kinda crazy after learning all the processes for the 3D printer. It’s more analog and human-driven. All the printer really needs is the push of a button and then it starts, but before that it’s so much hand work and things I have to put into it. In the end it kinda became Sophie and The Machine, and it was really me working with the machine rather than challenging my skills against it.

Hope: How do you see your artwork? What does your artwork aim to say?

Sophie: I’m constantly trying to make ceramics that people haven’t seen before. I really like to challenge the limits of clay too, and see how far I can push it and manipulate it. We are all hand makers, and I would really like to see a future where all of our daily items are replaced by handmade goods. I really hope that my ceramics, which are sculptural but also functional, end up being on the shelves of peoples homes other than commercial items.

Hope: A lot of artists like to stick to a certian aesthetic. Do you feel limited by an aesthetic you are trying to achieve?

Sophie: Not necessarily, because I get into moods, and I feel like we’re in a trend-heavy culture right now, but also it changes so often, and I kind of adapt to that too. When I first started ceramics, my style was completely different, but it evolved from that.  I feel like I can use my style and aesthetic as well as the trends that are happening to make it mine.

Hope: I see that you are graduating in the spring, is there any advice you would give to incoming sophomores in craft or in any arts major?

Sophie: Take as many classes, intro classes, as possible just to get all of the materials and focus under your belt. Even if you’re uncomfortable with an idea, I would still try it because you really never know if you’re going to like it or not. Also, do not be afraid to take as much time off as needed. I think everyone is always set in the graduate in four years or less mindset, but we’re all going at totally different paces. Burnout is super real, and that is why I decided not to do sculpture anymore because I was just super burnt out. I took a year off, and now I’m back and so much more inspired and motivated.

Pictures and Ceramics by: Sophie Copeland