Helen Levi | Episode 253
Helen Levi grew up in the East Village of New York City. Helen’s first encounter with clay was as a young child in an after school event. For college she studied photography which became a great compliment to her work as a ceramicist. As an adult she did a number of part-times jobs to make a living as an artist living in New York and teaching pottery classes was one of them. Helen set up her own studio where she makes beautiful stoneware ceramics in Brooklyn.
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How do you stay inspired to make fresh work and get fresh ideas?
Well I have a few thoughts about this. One is that because I didn’t go to school for ceramics I kind of feel like even though sometimes that is a disadvantage because there are certain technical things that I never learned, like I never learned how to make glazes. So there are times I think, man, I wish I would have gone to school for ceramics. There are other times when I’m really glad I didn’t because I feel like I am having this period where I have tons of ideas and I always want to try something out and I haven’t yet had like writer’s block with it. I wonder if I will run out of ideas in the future. I don’t think I will though. I heard a quote from a potter that said something like, I think I could live 60 lifetimes and there would still be more pots I could make. Within pottery there are so many different things you can do. There is always another process I could try.
How important is it for you as a business for you to have specific product lines?
I used to have everything as available as made to order on my website because I didn’t want it to feel exclusive. Like if you wanted a mug, you couldn’t get it. I wanted it to be within reach. But I found out that was super inefficient. There is always a balance between what makes me happy and what is a smart production move. I don’t want to manage a team of people doing production. I want to make stuff because that is what I love about doing this.
At what point do you know it’s time to change up a series?
Just when I get super sick of making it, I guess. Sometimes I just take a break from it and come back to it.
Do you have a formula for pricing on your wholesale and retail ceramics?
No, not really. I am doing less wholesale then I used to do because I do want to focus more energy on the web-shop. To me it is about working in a good relationship with a store and knowing you are a good fit for that store and so you guys can just work it out together.
How did you know that it would be a good move to move from a shared space to your own space?
I didn’t. I am taking a little bit of a gamble. I feel like you have to take risks to grow or at least that’s what I keep repeating to myself.
If you were a brand how would you say your motto and why?
That is a tough question to end on. I don’t know. The mantra that I try to keep in my own mind is , I really want to maintain the joy in my work. I don’t want to take myself too too seriously. I want to remember why I thought this would be a fun thing to try and try to keep that as part of my work life.