Design Perspective: Aoife Soden


Aoife Soden recently won the overall award for the Design and Crafts Council’s ‘Future Makers 2018’ award. DCCOI’s ‘Future Makers is a initiative which recognises talent, innovation and creativity and supports the next generation of makers, designs and craftspeople.’

Born in Cavan, in 1975 and a graduate of the NCAD Glass Department 2011, Aoife Soden is one of a new generation of glassmakers who straddle the world of design and art. Creating two distinct lines of work, her series of elegant bowls and vases, in transparent colours and simple forms, are created in the same studios as her sculpted pieces that relate to human emotions. Having two sides to her practice she submitted both lines of works to the Future Makers competition. At the prize-giving ceremony held recently in Dublin she was congratulated by selection judge Claudia Casali, International Museum of Ceramics, Italy on maintaining a diverse practice.

The pieces sing in their simplicity which belies the technical difficulty it takes to create this small detail

Now based in Aarhus in Denmark, Soden is surrounded by design thinkers and a strong cultural aesthetic. Having received a Thomas Damman Junior Award in 2012, she intially went to Denmark on a work placement. She was later hired as a studio manager at the pioneering Ebeltoft Glass Museum glass workshop where she continued to work for a number of years. Scandinavian influences are evident in her table ware. Form and function is carefully considered. Her Double Bubble Vases for example have a small integrated ring on the interior of the vase allowing a single stem to hold an elegant upright angle. The posed stem, creates its own pattern of optical lines through optimising the varying thicknesses of the material. The pieces sing in their simplicity which belies the technical difficulty it takes to create this small detail.

A series of shallow coloured bowls with a flash of fluid brightly coloured glass bands known as Braided Bowls have a different feel. Like Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, these bowls recount Soden’s many years of travel and absorbtion of different cultures. At age seven her family emigrated to Australia and later the family settled for a time in Papua New Guinea. Are these lines an echo of tribal art colours or perhaps childlike paint strokes of the children Aoife taught when she worked as a primary school teacher in both Australia and Ireland?

Her years as a teacher witnessing how children deal emotionally to difficult situations initially inspired her sculpted pieces. In her recent solo exhibition ‘Function and Dysfunction’ at Baunhøj Mølle, Denmark, blown and sculpted body parts make reference to human responses to emotions. Glass anchors and fishing buoys attached to heart forms, and lungs contained inside bell jars speak of weight, confinement and constriction, while the material played with ideas of fragility and optics. While continuing to exhibit in national and international sculpture exhibitions, Soden is also working towards stocking Irish retailers with her tableware. Look out for this elegant, fresh work that connects Ireland to Denmark in a new wave of design and craftsmanship.

Róisín de Buitléar is a visual artist, educator and curator, and currently artist-in-residence at the National Museum of Ireland 2018.