Lisa Jones, product designer, potter and owner of Pigeon Toe, is the woman behind one of the most gorgeous, elegant lines of pottery and homewares. Her artful, streamlined sensibility is apparent in all of her work, from petite, barely shaped creamers to ceramic tea lights to her new line of pixelated Chevron print napkins and bags. Come along for a peek into this visionary's studio and join us in conversation about sustainability and design. More photos below:
Lisa wasn't formally trained in ceramics, instead she came to embrace the feeling of thrown clay on the wheel as a way to channel creative energy while working in graphic design and retail. After a couple months of renting space at a pottery studio, she opened Pigeon Toe in 2009. In the three years she's been in business, the studio and the products Lisa makes have both evolved into a sustainably curated selection of heartbreakingly beautiful objects. Each season, Lisa realizes new ideas for vessels and textiles, she tests how they sell and preform for another few months, and edits her line as she goes. This artistic practice keeps Pigeon Toe fresh yet familiar, as all the top-selling pieces become the base of her line, punctuated by new items.
Visiting the studio/shop in Portland, Oregon is a wonderful experience. To be able to pick up a few lovely bowls and peek behind a large window at Lisa and her pottery team is to witness real artisans practicing their craft. There's something indescribable about buying an object locally, and watching the person who makes that object do their work. It is with this intention, thoughtful consumption of something handmade, useful and beautiful that I hope to steer more and more of my purchases whenever possible. Lisa provides ample opportunity to shop wisely, for a simple, timeless piece that you can enjoy every day.
Lisa Jones / Product designer + Potter, owner of Pigeon Toe.
What does a typical day look like?
As the owner I bounce around doing lots of different jobs. I usually start my morning answering emails, processing orders and updating my books, then head into the studio to throw pots and supervise production + shipping. Throw in a few meetings and a little time to get my daily dose of design blogs and there goes the day. A few days a week I also work in our storefront and I spend the time in between all that keeping our website looking fresh (i do all the graphic design for the company too), designing new collections, sourcing new lines for the store and doing the un-fun part of running a business (ie paying bills, reordering supplies, payroll, etc).
The term "green living" can be so generic. What does it mean to you?
To me it means living and consuming in a ethical and responsible way. I don't think it's particularly realistic to stop consuming. Instead, I believe in buying products with longevity, made as nearby as possible, and if it does have a life span - that is can be disposed of in a non-toxic and sustainable fashion. For the company, we strive to produce work that will stay in the family for generations, not something that is ephemeral, too trendy, or disposable. Our raw materials are all sourced locally (our clay is 95% US-based material), our glazes are non-toxic, lead-free and foodsafe.
What inspires you?
Pretty much everything, and generally it's an abstraction. It feels a bit like the magnified photos from a kids magazine where you have to guess what the object is — it's usually the smallest details of a much larger object, idea or experience that I find inspiring. Or sometimes it's inspiring to see something made purely for function without thought to form or beauty at all — it's like a challenge to me. I don't think any object in the world should be ugly — there's no excuse for it.
The one thing you can't live without:
Favorite quote or personal mantra you live by?
From Design House Stockholm: "Don't make something unless it's both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don't hesitate to make it beautiful."
• Visit Pigeon Toe: Pigeon Toe
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross. Originally published 2011-04-19)