Story by Anwar Boutayba
Andi Sobbe has been a potter since her days as a Girl Scout.
Despite taking a 25-year pottery hiatus to raise a family and work as a fundraiser for UNC-Chapel Hill, Sobbe, who is based in Chatham County, N.C., has devoted the majority of her life to pottery, selling her work on her website SecondNaturePottery.com and at Carrboro’s WomanCraft.
After pursuing an Art History degree at DePauw University, Sobbe joined the Peace Corps in Korea and committed her time to service and apprenticing under a Korean potter. Yet, studying ancient Korean pottery technique was not enough for Sobbe. After her tenure in the Peace Corps, Sobbe joined a pottery co-op in Los Angeles.
“I was learning by the seat of my pants and I loved it,” Sobbe said.
Through her years of traveling and collecting pottery, Sobbe has devised a unique creative process –one that derives inspiration from history and other cultures.
“There is an unbroken line of potters that runs for millennia and even some of the techniques I use are ancient,” said Sobbe. “Pottery is an age-old craft and I hope that my work is adding to the plethora of information we have about pottery.”
Although Sobbe values the artistic value of pottery, she does not create sculptures.
“The fun of it is knowing that someone is going to buy this and use it,” Sobbe said.
When looking at her inventory at WomanCraft, a small business in Carrboro specializing in the sale of products made by North Carolinian craftswomen, Sobbe’s work effortlessly combines utility and creativity.
Working out of what used to be her husband’s ostrich nursery, Sobbe says the setting of her home and studio “heavily inspire” her work –and it shows. Her Four Seasons mug depicts a tree in all four stages of life. The isolated nature of her home and studio allows for her work to continue regardless of COVID-19.
When asked about her working in the midst of a global pandemic, Sobbe said: “I’m retired so I work as hard as I want to work.”
In a way, Sobbe’s mindset adds a layer of authenticity to her work. Everything that is sold – whether on her website, at WomanCraft or at Apex’s Cocoon Gallery – is made with a genuine desire to create.
Despite being retired, Sobbe regards herself as a full-time potter.
“Around 2003 is when I got back into pottery,” she said. “My daughter had gone off to college and I decided to start working at a local studio while furnishing my own little-by-little. But after I retired in 2014 is when I got into pottery full-time.”
Being a full-time potter has given Sobbe the rare opportunity to use her love of travel to fuel her passion for pottery. When describing her last trip – a pottery tour in Morocco – Sobbe elaborated on another one of her pottery inspirations.
“Travelling gives me ideas,” she said. “I picked up these wooden forms in Morocco that are actually meant for cookies, but I use them as molds for my pottery.”
From spoon rests to board games to teapots shaped like chickens, Sobbe’s work is inspired by nature, travel and most importantly, a genuine love for the craft of pottery. When describing the value of her work, Sobbe concluded by saying:
“Drinking your coffee out of a handmade mug and feeling the imprints of someone else’s creativity is uplifting and enlightening,” she said. “That is why you buy hand-made things. We all benefit from sharing creativity.”
Sobbe makes everything from dinnerware sets and mugs to elaborate serving platters. To purchase these products, head over to SecondNaturePottery.com or visit WomanCraft at 360 E. Main St. in Carrboro.
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