In Conversation with Hardie Cobbs

Hardie Cobbs is an artist working out of Seattle, Washington. Beginning her creative pursuits in interior design, Hardie has tried her hand in just about every creative space with great success. In addition to ceramics, Hardie is also a painter and a photographer- roles she moved into while looking to remove the digital in search of the tangible. We've been a fan of her ceramic vessels- small, cup-like objects emulating sea creatures- and appreciate the raw beauty and nod to the natural world so consistent through her work. We talked with Hardie about her creative journey, how each medium plays an important role in her life, and the impact that her move to Seattle has had on her work. Thanks, Hardie!

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ET: You began your artistic career in interior design, then graphic design, and eventually moved into fine art. How has your background in design influenced your current practice?

 

HC: The progression of my career is really a story about exploring the process of creating. While working as an interior designer, I was interested in space planning and loved creating spaces that influenced how people lived. After working in London and DC for a few large firms, I quickly decided I wanted to be doing something more creative so I became a graphic designer. At that time, graphic design was a very hands-on field but sadly for me, the computer quickly replaced that tangible quality that I loved. The jump from design to fine arts happened because I realized I was looking for an unstructured platform where I could explore form, color, and space. I will never forget when I first began studying painting, it felt like I was jumping off a cliff. As a designer, I knew what I wanted my designs to look like and simply took the steps to make it happen. There was a structure there. With painting, it was so free-form that it was scary - and exhilarating! But I think once a designer, always a designer. Your training gives you a foundation of composition, balance and proportion that becomes second nature. I try to remove my designer self from my work as much as I can because I find it can be constraining and more about the outcome than the process. If you look across my work, you can see that straddle of structure and un-structure.

 

ET: How did you first start working in clay and what has that evolution been like?

 

HC: While working as a graphic designer in San Francisco, I was designing packaging- primarily wine labels for vineyards in Napa. But at the end of the day, I needed to get my hands more involved in the creative process. I started taking ceramics classes on the weekends at the Sharon Art Studio in Golden Gate Park and just loved it! You get out of your head when you work with your hands, especially with clay. It was the opposite of what I did all week and it was really freeing. It was the Yin to the Yang. I remember wanting to quit my job to somehow work with clay but knew that having one class under my belt wasn't going to exactly give me all I needed to make a living out of this. I did eventually quit that job several years later to study painting but continued studying ceramics all along. After a show I had in 2010 that was about patterns in the winter landscape, I realized I wanted to explore patterns three dimensionally and decided to fold clay into my studio practice.

 

 

ET: In addition to ceramics you’re also a photographer and a painter- what do you think is the common thread in your work among all of the mediums you use?

 

HC: My work, regardless of medium is simply about the exploration of patterns and repetitions. I try to reveal the beauty and complexities of these systems by zooming in and deconstructing them into individual parts. I find that each medium allows me to work in different ways and with varying intensities. My intention is to allow people to see the world through my eyes and hopefully inspire them to be curious about the beauty that surrounds them in their everyday lives. It’s funny, when I’m sculpting, I think about how to express the form on canvas or paper. When I’m shooting, I think about how to paint the images I capture. And when I’m painting, I think about how to create the form. A cycle very dependent on each other.

 

 

ET: You live and work in the Pacific Northwest- have you been working in this area for a while? How does your environment impact your work?

 

HC: We moved to Seattle from San Francisco two years ago. For some reason, I thought Seattle was going to be like San Francisco but just up the coast. I was wrong. Albeit, both places share the same topography of water and mountains but the Pacific Northwest has a completely different energy here. This is really a good question because when I think about my current work, I realize that it has indeed shifted somewhat. Although I’m still exploring patterns and repetitions like I did in California, my work is now more connected to the water landscape. I also realize that my paintings and photography deal a lot more with light and shadows than before. Light is a huge factor here. For a few months in the winter, we are what you would call ‘light challenged’ and for a few months in the summer, I would say we are ‘dark challenged’. We are much farther north and the days are either very long or very short. It’s really a notable change that is factoring into my work.

 

 

ET: What does a typical day look like for you around the studio. Do you have any working rituals?

 

HC: I feel very lucky that when we moved to Seattle we bought a house that had an small barn in the back yard - think one horse barn, like Mr Ed. It's very long and narrow, which is where the studio name, Longhouse Studios came from. We live on an island in the middle of a lake so on most mornings, even in the Seattle rain, I go for a hike down to the water with my camera. It's a great time for me to switch gears from being a mom and getting my three kids out the door to being an artist with deadlines in the studio. The physical aspect of this ritual is really a great way to process ideas. Also, because I work by myself, sound is important. I love quiet and fully embrace it but there are times when having sound is important. I’m addicted to NPR so I usually listen to that in the mornings when I’m doing things that are routine. But if I’m creating, especially painting, I warm up by doing fast gesture drawings to (of all things) Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major III Allegro. Totally random but there’s nothing like a energizing fugue to get your brain working on all levels. Try it.

 

 

ET: Do you have any upcoming projects or ideas you’re excited to share with us?

 

HC: Yes!! Too many but the one that is screaming the loudest is one that is inspired from a dear friend of mine. She is also an artist and is a kindred soul. After she saw my recent clay work last spring, she simply told me to take these to the wall. All I have to go on is ‘go to the wall’. Hilarious but also very intriguing. I can tell it’s churning in the incubator because the vision is starting to come through. It makes sense with my background in interiors, my love of patterns, and my need to create three dimensionally that something would come together on the wall. I’m happy to embrace all that I have learned in my varied career and be open to new possibilities.

 

 


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  • I adore Hardie and her work so much, thank you for sharing!

    • Dorothee