5 Good Things - Sophie Sellu - London

5 Good Things - Sophie Sellu - London

"I have always set out to elevate the everyday experience. Leaving a functional item, such as a brush, on display after use rather than hiding it away".

Nestled in a cosy corner of her sunlit studio, surrounded by the scent of fresh wood shavings and the rhythmic hum of carving tools, Sophie Sellu breathes life into the ordinary. An acclaimed woodworker and sculptor, Sophie has made a name for herself by transforming everyday objects into abstract, playful works of art that still bring with them function and utility. Her creations, ranging from whimsical spoons to fantastical brushes, blur the line between functionality and art, inviting a sense of wonder and curiosity.

In this month's edition of 5 Good Things, we delve into Sophie's creative process, exploring the inspirations and philosophies that drive her work and uncover the story behind her unique approach to woodworking and her dedication to sustainability. Sophie's journey is a testament to the beauty of imagination and the enduring allure of craftsmanship.

Please could you introduce yourself and tell us what it is you do?

My name is Sophie Sellu, I am an artist working primarily in wood. I set up the business Grain & Knot 12 years ago selling sculptural, functional objects and tableware. 

What was it that started you on this path and what inspired you to create your own pieces?

Ive been doing woodwork at school since I was 11, I really loved learning by doing. Later on in life I went back to it as a way to get away from my computer screen. After two redundancies I started selling the items I was making. 

How do you decide what to craft/make? Does it come from a commercial mind set or from a sense of play and discovery?

The items I make always come from play and rest. I think taking time away from creating gives you a chance to activate the creative part of your brain. I do like to make items that fit a gap in the market — being realistic about my intentions and how people will use the items I make. 

How do you source your materials?

I only use storm fallen and reclaimed timber. Sourcing from timber reclamation yards and having connections with people that own woodlands has been really important in my learning. 

Why is it important that you use storm fallen and reclaimed timber?

It’s giving something a purpose after it was otherwise deemed as waste. Giving it a second life and a chance to live on for a really long time. 

You give everyday items a unique and interesting spin, how much of that is down to the materials you use and your own design?

I’d say most of it comes from my own designs, but I wouldn’t be anywhere without the beautiful and unique patterned materials I use. I really like to bridge the gap between functional and sculptural. 

Where do you think your work sits between utility and beauty and what’s your philosophy on form over function?

I really like making objects of use that bridge the gap between form and function. I have always set out to elevate the everyday experience. Leaving a functional item, such as a brush, on display after use rather than hiding it away or a tactile beautiful spoon that is a joy to hold while cooking.

Do you have a piece you’ve created that you’re particularly proud of?

I try not to have favourites, I have so many varied forms it’s easy to grow attached but they don’t normally stay in the studio for very long. I really like the brushes I make, especially the more sculptural ones I've made. I often get asked what they are for and I find that really funny. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

Having complete creative freedom can be a blessing, choosing my hours and getting to hang out with my dog all day.

As someone who creates objects for the kitchen and home, why should people take pride in the small things they own?

The small things can bring joy and add character, it’s important to explore and tell stories in this way!

Do you think your work has influenced your styling choices and what type of apparel do you find yourself wearing and why?

I think I have always been really mindful of the impact my choices. I do find I lean more towards workwear, oversized and comfortable. Versatility is really important! It’s great to be able to have an impromptu pub hang after work without being dressed too scruffy. 

There’s an element of sustainability and sourcing ethically in your work — is this also important in the clothes your buy?

Yes absolutely. I try to shop in a considered way in every aspect of my life. There are often limiting factors that make this difficult such as cost and timeframe/ availability but good things come to those who wait. 

Your work has taken you out of your studio and onto our TV screens, what can you tell us about that?

Its been a really interesting side quest! I have enjoyed bringing woodwork to people that otherwise haven’t seen the processes before. I've always tried to be encouraging and compassionate in teaching others as it's how I learn best. It was a nice break from the studio but I am really happy to be back into the rhythm of making again.

What are you working on at the moment and what does the future hold? 

I’m currently working on a new collection that will be available in the next few months. It’s mainly tableware — which I’ve not made in a while so I’m really excited about it. 

What do you consider to be a rich and fulfilling life and what gives your life richness?   

Spending time being creative, in nature and eating delicious food with good friends and family. 

And finally, where is the best place for people to find you?

@grainandknot / grainandknot.com  

And now onto 5 Good Things. This is where we ask you to recommend 5 Good Things in your city and hopefully inspire people to check them out.

A favourite restaurant in your city and what dish in particular?

Kudu, Queen's Road in Peckham — Parmesan churros.

Favourite spot for inspiration in your city and why?

Anywhere green and unexpected — I love dropping by St Dunstan in the East whenever I get the chance. 

A podcast or playlist you’d recommend?

I love a UK garage playlist when I need to get stuff done.

A book on your shelf you’ll always go back to?

Im not a huge reader but I have so many cookbooks I love. Ottolenghi Flavour gets used a lot.

Someone whose work inspires you?

Faye Toogood — I love the way her work spans so many different categories and is always really creative.

Photography by Daisy Wingate Saul

Sophie wears the 3001 Cord Overshirt in Faded Black and matching 5005 Workwear Pants.