If you aren't already familiar with ceramicist family Henry Street Studio, allow us to introduce you to both their work and their growing upstate compound! We've featured design couples on our journal before but this is our first design family. Every member of the Simons clan, from parents Josh & Loren to daughter Aliza and photographer son Casey, works collaboratively towards gorgeous pieces, documentation, and now their respective homes in upstate New York!
Read on to learn about their background in prop styling, renovation projects, and more!
Lilly of Blluemade: I first met Aliza through a mutual friend who shares your Brooklyn studio space, but I think I had already heard of both Aliza and her mom Loren from other ceramicist friends. What can I say, your glazes are notorious! The lore was that you were prop stylists turned ceramicists. I'd love to hear more about that part of your lives and what led you to starting ceramics. Also, who got into ceramics first, or did it happen simultaneously?
Aliza of Henry Street Studio: I've been making ceramics since I was a kid, but I got serious after college. I had a series of work study and studio technician positions at several community studios in NYC, took a few ceramic science courses, and then I ended up opening my own shared ceramic studio in Williamsburg. My mom, Loren, was a prop stylist for many years and took the plunge into ceramics when I suggested we take a class together. She actually majored in ceramic sculpture in college, but she hadn't touched clay for years before that hand building class.
L: When did y'all decide to make the transition fully into ceramics? Do you miss prop styling?
A: The transition was organic -- at a certain point, I realized I could focus on ceramics full time and I never looked back! Sometimes I miss having someone else call the shots -- with your own business, you have to make all the decisions.
L: I'm sure each type of small business you've run has had its own sets of challenges. Would you mind sharing how your lives changed when you made the switch to ceramics? Even though you had already been a freelancer, did it still feel scary to make the jump?
A: Absolutely, it was nerve wracking. I don't think I slept for three weeks while I was building out the ceramics studio in Williamsburg. My life really changed when I opened my studio -- I was just always on call. I was the person repairing the kilns, fixing the leaky sink trap, solving all the problems when things went wrong. But I love the freedom of having my own space. I wouldn't have it any other way.
L: Ok let's dig into the bucolic upstate life: tell me about those chickens! And how life is upstate, the ongoing barn renovations, essentially, the extended family compound y'all are creating! Give me the scoop--kiln rooms, airstreams, and all!
A: My parents are going through a major renovation! Their entire house here in Chatham, NY was gutted because of a faulty foundation. The whole project has taken almost two years. In the meantime, my mom has been raising chickens, my brother is fixing up an old airstream camper, and I finished building a kiln shed for our new gas kiln. Lots of projects happened during the pandemic.
L: What about the garden. Did Loren always have a green thumb? Had making the move upstate been on your minds for a while, and what about it has met your expectations or been a surprise? And what's it like raising chickens?
A: The chickens are....fast! Even though they can't fly, they are really hard to catch. My mom got six chicks last year, and another six this year -- my favorite are the Barred Rock chickens, which have black and white feathers. She also has Easter Eggers, which lay pale green eggs, and Araucana, which lays pale blue. My dad loves drawing them and collecting the eggs -- but he wasn't too happy when they accidentally got out the other day and he spent an hour trying to catch them!
My partner Ian and I were always planning on spending more time upstate, but the pandemic forced our hand. The solitude allows me to get a lot of work done; it's like I'm on a perpetual residency. Still, I miss my ceramics community in Brooklyn and I'm hoping I can find more balance in 2021.
L: I'm sure the lines get blurred for the rest of us when we look at Henry Street Studio, but y'all must instantly be able to tell whose pottery is whose between Aliza, Loren, and Josh. Do you divide and conquer when it comes to forms?
A: My mom typically does the slab work, I throw on the wheel, and my dad hand builds with coils. We are all working with different techniques, but I think the glue that holds it all together is a shared visual language. Most times, one piece will inform another, and forms, textures and other ideas get passed back and forth.
L: Let's dig into clothes. Y'all are highly attuned to materials both as ceramicists and prop stylists--your eye for texture, color, and form is unsurpassed! What do you look for in clothing, and what clothing makes you feel happy/confident/capable?
A: I don't mean to play too much into my audience here, but honestly, I love wearing Blluemade! Wearing workwear makes me feel happiest and most comfortable. In the studio, I wear the same thing every day -- a navy blue Redcap jumpsuit. I have 6 or 7 of them. I like having a uniform, and it makes me feel ten times more confident when I throw on my Blluemade jacket shirt over my work clothes. I'm also trying harder these days to buy clothes from local designers or purchase pre-worn clothing rather than spending money on fast fashion (...that's the influence of my wonderful studio-mate and professional stylist Katie James!) and wearing clothing made by friends is the best.
L: We're blushing over here! To learn more about Henry Street Studio check out their instagram and website.
Henry Street Studio
All photos courtesy Casey Zane Simons