Helen Levi is a Brooklyn-based potter working primarily with stoneware. Her studio in Red Hook focuses on small-batch production exploring marbling and surface pattern.
If you’re not already familiar with Helen’s work, prepare to fall hard. Her pottery drew me in immediately - the color patterns, oversized mugs, and her witty descriptions and relatable personality were magnetic. I have a bit of an obsession with tabletop objects - bowls, mugs, jars, pots, pitchers - I’ll never get enough, and no one can stop me. The functional yet playful nature of Helen’s work is right up my alley, and stepping into her world for a bit was an absolute treat.
I think part of my fixation with pottery is that I harbor a secret (well, not so secret now, I guess) desire to mold clay into things with my hands, too. The tools of the trade really appeal to me, and the medium is so tactile - the thought of cool, wet clay spinning underneath my hands, thick pours of opaque liquid, putting all your weight behind a rolling pin, the ability to achieve a gloriously slick finish or dynamic matte surface. I love the contrast of the process to the finished product, as well. It’s dirty, gritty work that produces beautiful, delicate objects, and I really enjoy that tension. It reminds me of making clothing - pattern making and garment construction are very mathematical, technical, and manual processes, but they result in ephemeral, fluid, emotional products. At any rate, suffice it to say, I am fascinated by what Helen does and maybe just a wee bit obsessed with the whole scene.
We visited her Brooklyn studio, and it was everything you’d imagine and more. Sunlight poured over the teetering shelves full of molds, buckets, clay, pots, and a myriad of other tools and materials. Planters, mugs, vases - everywhere you looked, you’d find something finished and in use, something in the middle of becoming itself, and material in waiting. Watching Helen work was fascinating, and it was clear that she needed to move quickly from task to task without anything impeding her movement or comfort. Our garments felt right at home in her studio. A cotton canvas jumpsuit becomes a workshop uniform, smeared with clay and accumulating new stories with every wear. A linen tunic well suited for packing up orders or unloading the kiln on a humid summer morning. While I may never fulfill my secret dream of becoming a potter, it feels just about as good to be present in the studios of artists I admire through dress.
We asked Helen what role clothing plays in her life and work, and here’s what she had to say:
“Clothing is a function. I dress differently in my home life than my work life, and when I’m at the studio, I always choose my wardrobe with function and comfort as my top priority. I love that my Elizabeth Suzann pieces are both functional and comfortable - and good looking enough that I want to wear them when I’m not at work.”
Helen wears the Sleeveless Placket Top in Ivory Midweight Linen (coming soon), Cecilia Pant in Black Cotton Stretch (returning soon), and Clyde Jumpsuit in Natural Cotton Canvas.