Hudson Valley Etsy Team's February featured member shop is L&M studio, a collaboration between Meg and Lucie. Congratulations, you two!
|Meg and Lucie still smiling after a long day of work|
One extra cold day in late January, I went to L&M Studio in Catskill, NY, to meet Meg and Lucie. When I told them they had been chosen and asked what they wanted me to do for their featured member blog post, Meg responded,“Lucie and I have been brainstorming, and think that what is most interesting about us is our process, not only the process of slip-casting, but also of how we are inspired and collaborate to create new designs.” Rather than making them take their own pictures, I decided I’d head over to get a better idea of their process (as well as the artists themselves). So, armed with my camera and a 4gb SD card, I went to see what this lovely Etsy shop was all about.
|The shelving is from Ikea and doubles as their craft fair display|
The entrance of their shop is set up as a small storefront, the front windows and shelves filled with bowls, planters, and birdhouses looking out at the passerby. The rest of their space is a sizable and well-organized ceramics studio.
|I love how they use a chalkboard to keep track of projects|
I had read a bit about Lucie and Meg in preparation for this meeting; how they had met at Byrdcliffe Artist Colony in Woodstock as artists-in-residence, kept in touch, and started helping one another out on their separate projects while giving their puppies play-dates before Lucie lost her studio to Hurricane Irene. Then they decided to get a shared space and start L&M Studio as a collaborative venture. So I was not at all surprised when two lovely and well-behaved dogs came up to the studio gate to greet me (the dogs are not allowed in the storefront to prevent breakage).
|Sasha and Max by the fire|
I found Lucie and Meg to be wonderful ladies, super friendly, and a pleasure to talk to. We discussed everything from tea, pets, and family members to Etsy, art, and business. It was incredibly informative and fun for me, so I hope I can share my experience with you as well.
When creating a new design, Meg and Lucie work collaboratively to make an original model that will be used to create a mold. When I was there, they were working on a large pet urn made of wooden blocks with clay filling in any gaps and a large fruit bowl. It was great to see how they work with one another, deciding when a new item is completed and working back and forth.
|Lucie working on a bog bowl prototype|
They are great at helping one another out by taking over each other’s tasks when the other gets tired of a specific job and working out the best way to complete a project. We also talked about how having another person there while working really helps you keep on-track, as opposed to when they had their studios at home and they would often do laundry or some other household task when they should have been creating.
Once they've decided a prototype is complete, they set it up for casting. First, they use clay to start setting up the separate sections of the mold.
Surround it in wooden coddles or metal sheeting to keep the plaster contained and smooth out the added clay to close any gaps in the plaster that might leak through.
|Meg drilling the coddles together for the dog bowl, she recommends using square screws heads and bits.|
Now it’s time to start pouring the molds! The plaster needs to be mixed for 3 minutes (it’s kept in a separate room because if some plaster got mixed into the clay it would be disastrous).
Then pour and/or flick it on to the prototypes. This is when visitors are most likely to come in the shop according to Meg and Lucie, as they are covered in plaster and have to work quickly to make the molds before the plaster hardens, and therefore are completely unable to help any customers.
As the plaster starts to harden, it goes through a heat cycle. I was told that the day before my visit, Lucie and Meg had some of their pregnant friends come by to make casts of their bellies but they had to cool the plaster beforehand so that, when the plaster warmed up, it wouldn't get hot enough to hurt them (I can’t wait to see what they make with those molds!). With the large fruit bowl, Meg works with the thickening plaster to create feet.
While I was there, I got to check out several of the molds they've already finished for everything from birdhouses and cups to planters and even stools! To create their slip casted creations, they fill up the molds with slip (a mixture of clay and water) and let them sit.
After awhile, the plaster starts to remove moisture from the slip, causing it to dry around the outsides of the mold. Once the walls have thickened enough, they pour out the remaining slip and let the mold sit upside down for awhile so the excess clay drips out rather than settling on the bottom.
After awhile, Lucie and Meg open up the molds and pull out the pieces and see what they’ve created.
They add any finishing touches, like the feet on the footed nesting bowls.
And their own personal stamp reading “l&m” (this might be one of my favorite touches).
|when you order one of their items it comes wrapped in blue tissue paper with a similar wax-seal|
Smooth out any drips.
Their final steps include drying, firing, sanding, glazing, and firing again. Oh, and putting in the plants!
I didn't get to see any of that, but I did get to talk to them about it and take a couple more pictures. Depending on the time of year and what they’re working on, they’ll run the large kiln more often but it tends to average out to once every two weeks. So far they've run it about 100 times since opening back in 2011.
They make most of their own glazes using raw materials like copper, flux, and clay. They do buy their red glazes however.
Meg and Lucie love the slip casting process even though, before opening L&M studio, they had only used it while at college. Even though Lucie and Meg use molds, each item goes through their hands and, unlike in industrial slip casting, each item comes out a bit differently, giving each one a handmade one-of-a-kind feeling that’s part of what makes each of their creations so special.
|Vibrant Prep Bowl in Dark Orange|
I hope you enjoyed your trip to L&M studio! I know I did. Definitely go check them out in person if you can at 460 Main Street in Catskill. Lucie and Meg are there most weekdays from 10-5pm, just be patient if they happen to be covered in plaster! Or you can always check out their awesome Etsy shop. I’m sure you know someone who needs one of their adorable birdhouses or bud-vases for Valentine’s Day! (Or is that just me?)