Member Spotlight: Sophie Binder - MADE STL

MADE Member Interview: Sophie Binder

Earlier this year, local artist Sophie Binder decided to join the MADE community. Since then, she has completed several large and small projects– each more beautiful and interesting than the last! When we asked if she would like to document her experience here, Sophie responded with an enthusiastic, ‘Yes!’. Here’s what she has to share:


What brought you to MADE?

Sophie: In January of this year I joined MADE, as I was just starting work on a pretty large commission. This commission of 7 multi-panels wood burning and watercolor pieces was going to “outgrow” the space I had, and would involve a lot of wood prep (trimming, sanding…), so it seemed MADE was the perfect space. As soon as I started working here, I knew I had found a great community. The staff welcomed me with open arms, and I really embraced the social interaction which I was missing while working alone.

The first day I started to work on the wood-burning part of my big pieces back in January, I clearly remember sitting at the communal table, music in my ears, and feeling this epiphany of “this is so right, this is where I belong!” There was something pretty perfect in that moment and the following months. I do not think I could have done such a large project with so much energy and drive without the MADE community. So Thank you for the great welcome all of you guys offered.

One of Sophie's woodburned panels from early spring.
One of Sophie’s woodburned panels from early spring.
What’s your art about?

S: I approach art as a storyteller – each piece existing as a lasting imprint of experiences, encounters, adventures or discoveries. It may reflect my personal journey, but it is meant to travel broadly, and hopefully touch more souls. Sometimes I create art to narrate the story; sometimes the story evolves from the process of creation. 

For years watercolor and sketching were my favorite ways to express myself, until I ventured into wood burning a few years ago and fell completely in love with it. Suddenly another dimension was opening up, and I enthusiastically dove into it. Month after month, I learned about wood, how to “read” it and start a “conversation,” somehow channeling my dad (who was a wizard wood worker/cabinet maker). Yet I still felt that watercolor had to be part of that journey; hours of experimenting ensued with a familiar medium on a not-so familiar support, I had to find the right wood to serve as the foundation of this curious marriage: hard maple has emerged as the ideal environment.

Another panel- in progress- from Sophie’s project in early spring.
What have you made at MADE?

 S: I spent my first couple of weeks at MADE in the wood shop, measuring, cutting, endlessly planning and sanding over 40 boards of maple till I had the smooth baby-skin surface I needed to start “burning”. Over the next 3 months I spent hours in the communal area wood burning gigantic flowers onto seven different multi-panel pieces which are now installed in the new Saint Louis University Hospital tower in Saint Louis. The better air flow and ventilation allowed me to work in better conditions than I had at home. The interaction with all the artisans, artists, scientists, and other craftsmen was so rich, the exchange of ideas so inspiring, the advice priceless.
When COVID 19 forced their closure for a couple of months, I realized how this community had become such a big part of my week! I was back working at home again. Thankfully I had made enormous progress on the project. MADE re-opened in a very timely fashion as I was about to clear coat all the pieces and I would never have been able to without their spray room!

This big project done did not mean I was done with MADE! I grabbed the opportunity of having a little free time to dive into a personal project, learning the use of a new tool, the CNC router. I had wood-burned Backgammon boards and wanted to make the game box to insert them in.  Vince, MADE’s Director of Operations, guided me through the entire project with the CNC, and the work on a new kind of wood for me: Osage orange (the most magnificent wood I have ever worked with). This latest project is almost finished. Next will be to learn the lathe!

Sophie’s sketch for the backgammon board.
The backgammon board being routed out by MADE’s CNC router!
What’s your favorite tool?

S: The CNC router was a pretty cool tool to learn, but I have the feeling that the lathe will be my next favorite. As the daughter of a cabinet maker/wood worker this tool has always fascinated me, and I cannot wait to learn how to use it!


Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Sophie! If you’d like to learn more about Sophie or commission a piece from her, check out her instagram @softhefrog and her website


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