Loren and Aliza Simons, the mother-daughter ceramicists behind Henry Street Studio, wheel-throw and hand-build stunning pieces of usable art, sold mainly on the Internet. Without a brick-and-mortar store, or even wholesale partners, the duo have drawn thousands of followers—and sold out online sales—with an abundant Instagram presence, thanks to careful curation. Daughter Aliza posts daily photos of their growing collection: a whiskey cup with rose quartz swirls, an uneven-edged platter, an elegant vase whose tapered neck can cradle a solitary blossom.
Making art as together was natural from the start for Aliza and Loren. Growing up in SoHo, Aliza rollerbladed to downtown galleries and tinkered with wire, fabric, and really any material she could unearth from Loren’s treasure trove assembled from years of prop styling. Then, six years ago, the two turned their creativity toward clay and enrolled in a ceramics class. Their “shared visual language,” as Aliza calls it, led them to pass pieces back and forth to one another rather than work separately; all of Henry Street Studio’s ceramics are collaborations between the two women.
“We always say four hands touch a piece,” Loren explains.
Evolving into a business was also organic. Loren brought their ceramics to Prop Workshop, her Manhattan rental studio, and was surprised when stylists demanded more pieces. That interest, combined with a popularity boost after a few key Instagrammers tagged them, has kept the Simons women busy.
“It’s amazing because we can sell directly to our customers,” Aliza says about Instagram. “We can easily change the work based on immediate responses and experiment with new things. There are claims about how removed we are, how involved we are with technology, how we want things that help us feel connected to the people who made them. I think that’s real.”
The two women have utilized technology’s power to connect people, but they’re aware of its ability to isolate. In the studio, they turn off—or at least silence—their phones. “The clay knows if you’re distracted, and it will break,” Aliza tells me, and then focuses fully on the slab of earth forming under her fingers, using a touch both delicate and strong to keep it all together.
Talking with Loren and Aliza Simons
You say you share a visual language. How has your aesthetic changed over the six years you’ve worked together?
Loren Simons: We’ve gotten more open to accident. We wanted everything to be so perfect and controlled. We wanted [the pieces] totally smooth and only in white because food looks great on white. Now, we’re really into color.
Aliza Simons: Not everything has to be so uniform. The imperfections are what make the pieces so personal—the different sizes, the slightly different shapes. Everything’s unique.
Where do you think that change came from?
LS: More confidence.
AS: More openness. The longer we work with the materials, the more we appreciate their variations.
What happens if you disagree creatively?
LS: Usually Aliza wins out.
AS: Usually she wins out, that’s a lie. We’ve reached the point where we don’t say no to each other. Every idea is valid. We should try it and then shoot it down.
LS: Or we put it out in the world and see. We can put it on Instagram and see how people respond to the shape or the glaze.
You create your own glazes instead of using commercial ones. What’s the process of developing a glaze?