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.

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“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. 

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Talking with Loren and Aliza Simons
You say you share a visual language. How has your aesthetic changed over the six years youve worked together?
Loren Simons: Weve 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, were 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. Everythings 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, thats a lie. Weve reached the point where we dont 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.

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You create your own glazes instead of using commercial ones. Whats the process of developing a glaze?

AS: A glaze consists of a lot of different ceramic materialsIm coming up with different combinations of these materials, tweaking them, finding out what happens when you heat them up. Theres a lot of testing, and its very time-consuming, but its been fun getting into the science of it.
You hold online sales when theres enough inventory and when you feel the work is novel and different. Where do you find inspiration for new pieces?
LS: New colors!
AS: [My mom] found this little antique jar when she was in India, and there was inspiration in the way the lid sat on the jar. We find great shapes in hardware stores too. Theres something about the shape that you connect to and click with.
LS: Just being in New York, inspiration is bound to seep out somehow. Well make something and be like, Wow! Doesnt that remind you of a piece at the Met?It just gets in and comes out. Its not deliberateWeve looked at other potters too. Were mostly inspired by their lives. Like Lucie Rie or Eva Zeisel, who were still making ceramics until very late in life.
Your next online sale is in April, and youre planning an in-person sale at Prop Workshop this summer. How long does it take to create new work?
AS: Heres what happens: You throw [the clay], you wait for it to dry, then you trim it—which is the process by which you take away clay from the bottom—then you wait for it to dry. You load it in a kiln and fire it, then glaze it with a recipe youve tested and tested, then put it back in the kiln.
LS: With clay, you cant rush it.
AS: Theres a lot of thought and technicality and whats a better word than love? that goes into each piece. Its really gratifying to see someone walk away with a piece and feel they connect with it, they are happy to have it, theyre going to use it. And thats what great about Instagram! You can see the path the pieces take and the adventures they have after they leave you. People post their pictures, like Im using this bowl for my apple-gorgonzola salad today!
Do you think ceramics are experiencing a resurgence in popularity?
LS: Everybodys brother is doing ceramics now.

AS: Handmade ceramics are very relevant right now. Until very recently in human history, we were surrounded by things that we directly made. Were so removed from those processes [of creation], so its really amazing to have handmade ceramics and feel a connection with how it was made.

LS: Theres a whole handmade movement, whether its small-batch food or ceramics.

AS: We want to feel more connected with the processes of the things that surround us.

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