Lowland Studio Crafts Organically-Inspired Lighting From Porcelain

Kelly Storrs, the potter behind the wheel at the Woodstock, New York–based Lowland, says her work draws from the cyclical nature of life-forms.
Lowland studio pottery lighting

Kelly Storrs of Lowland Studio throws and carves porcelain lights by hand in her Woodstock, New York, workshop. The organic quality of the lights stems in part from Storrs’s time as a landscape designer. Courtesy Matt Long

You could be forgiven for thinking that each orb of Lowland’s chandeliers is made from the bleached shell of some long-extinct sea creature. Although the bone-white porcelain globes are thrown on a potter’s wheel, the patterns etched onto their surfaces evoke the natural beauty of decay, recalling the structure of a seed pod.

Kelly Storrs, the potter behind the wheel at the Woodstock, New York–based studio, says her inspiration for this work was the cyclical nature of life-forms. “[It] started with this tension between the life that exists when something grows and the beauty of its death, as well as the rebirth,” she explains.

The theme of change, so present in her work, seems fitting, given Storrs’s career in ceramics. At her Catholic high school in Rhode Island, she discovered a potter’s wheel in the basement and persuaded a nun to teach her how to use it. Later, she studied ceramics in college, then spent ten years exploring pottery traditions around the world, using local clays and traditional wood-firing techniques to produce stoneware.

Lowland studio pottery lighting

Lowland Studio’s creations show off the luminescent qualities of their clay bodies. Courtesy Matt Long

After a decade away from the craft, Storrs founded Lowland in 2015. Her objective was to take her pottery in a completely new direction, beginning with the clay itself. Instead of a heavy, iron-rich stoneware clay body, Storrs chose to work with porcelain, finding the material’s translucence well suited for lighting. “By carving the porcelain and then putting the light into it, it’s sort of a surprise every time,” she explains. “You see one thing when the light is off, but then you turn it on and it looks like it completely transforms. That makes it exciting for me.” Storrs applies the technique to pendant lighting and chandeliers, and has had her wares featured at Field + Supply, the destination upstate New York craft fair. But most of her work, she says, is custom.

Along with the dialogue between growth and decay, Storrs’s work seeks a balance between the decorative and the practical. “I didn’t want to make functional work, because I just felt that it doesn’t show off the qualities of porcelain the way something more sculptural does,” she says. “You can be more free when you don’t have to adhere to functionality so much, but I also didn’t just want to make sculptures, because I actually wanted to sell things.”

For Storrs, the textures she etches into each piece relate to her experience as a landscape designer during her hiatus from ceramics. “The carving is definitely inspired by the work I did in landscaping, witnessing the decay of the natural world as well as the growth,” she says. The nearby Saw Kill River is another muse, one that Storrs describes as a destructive force, eroding the land as it flows from the Catskill Mountains.

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Categories: Design