In The Fold: An Interview with ceramicist Lauren HB
Threefold Gifts makers are spread across the nation. What some don’t know is that a small handful of our artists are actively creating the gifts in our shop just blocks away from our front steps. Lauren Herzak-Bauman is one of those artists. Operating out of the Lake Erie Screw Factory, Lauren creates her geometric vessels, sculptural installations, and standalone structures in Lakewood’s well-known artist enclave.
Lauren Herzak-Bauman’s artistic practice fills homes with gorgeous, jewel-tone dishes, vases, and bowls, but her talents cannot be contained in just one space. Recently, her sculptural work and installations have been on display at the American Greetings corporate headquarters gallery, Cleveland Public Library’s Eastman Reading Garden, SPACES Gallery, The Westin Hotel in downtown Cleveland, and at MetroHealth Medical center in Brecksville.
Enjoy our interview with Lauren below, and shop a selection of her handmade goods at Threefold Gifts year-round.
How did you decide on your business name?
My business is Lauren HB Studio. I wanted to keep it simple but differentiate my functional work from my sculptural work (which I make under my full name, Lauren Herzak-Bauman). HB stands for my last name initials, but it’s really fun to let people guess!
What caused you to start making your products?
I fell in love with clay at a young age, before I could drive. However, I returned to making pots out of necessity. I was moving back to Cleveland without a job and I heard about this little thing called the Cleveland Flea (this was 2013) and I thought I’d apply and see if I could sell pots there. It went really well so I ran with it!
Can you tell us a little about the making of your products?
My pottery is slipcast, which means it’s produced in a mold using liquid clay, or slip. I design originals and take molds from them. Then slip is poured into the mold and a clay skin develops. When the slip gets poured out, the skin stays and become the pot! I fire everything in an electric kiln in my studio with handcrafted glazes. Every pot goes through at least two firings. Everything else I make depends on the concept and the context. I’m working outside of clay a lot for public art projects, which is fun and challenging.
Who's on your our creative team?
I work with an awesome group of interns and assistants that help me manage all aspects of my business. My team changes seasonally but my assistant Meghan Calvert has been with me for almost three years!
Where do you create your work? What is that space like?
I make most of my work in my studio at the Screw Factory, located just around the corner from Threefold. The building is an old electric automobile factory (did you know that Cleveland was a leader in electric cars at the turn of the century?!) and the building has tall ceilings and big windows that let in the best light. I’m surrounded by other small businesses, artists, and an awesome facility and maintenance team. The Screw Factory is really the best studio building I’ve ever been a part of! I also have a small studio in my basement and a home office. But all my computer work happens on my couch in the living room.
How often do you find yourself in the studio?
I’m in the studio very regularly four weekdays a week. I’m a new mom so I find myself coming in on weekends and evenings too. Some projects allow me to work from home, but most happens at the Screw Factory. I’m pretty messy so it’s best to keep that mess consolidated.
What is your favorite way to creatively warm-up?
Ahh such a good question! This changes all the time. Sometimes it’s sketching. Sometimes it’s making prototypes and maquettes. Other times it’s cleaning the studio, looking through old sketchbooks. One of my favorite things to do is to get outside and take pictures of surfaces, textures, and other abstract things that catch my eye. When I’m writing I turn on movies/tv shows I’ve seen a million times so I can zone out and get to the work. My everyday warm up includes copious amounts of coffee.
Share a little about your average day of work.
There’s a lot of repetitive labor in my studio practice, such as pouring molds, glazing pots, and loading and unloading kilns. I try to break that up with some more on-my-feet physical activity like recycling clay, making glazes, or packing shipments. I work on problem solving tasks before lunch and save mindless grunt work for the end of the day. What I like about my studio practice is there really is no average day. Some days we are glazing pots, some days we are pouring resin on 10 ft. sculptures, and even other days we are installing artwork at gallery exhibitions. It keeps the workdays super fun!
Which part of your process do you get the most satisfaction from?
I really really love the design process. It’s hard but extremely satisfying to start with nothing in front of you and build prototypes to produce in clay. I also love unloading kilns with freshly glazed work, especially when the pots are still warm! It’s like Christmas at every kiln unloading.
Do you have a favorite tool or technique that you love/can't do without?
I have way too many tools that I love to use all the time, but the biggest life-saving tool has been my Klein Tools Non-Contact Voltage Tester. I was once shocked touching a kiln and now I never touch a kiln without using my voltage tester first.
What do you like to listen to while you’re working?
Podcasts, music, movies, and TV. I switch it up a lot. Mortified is my current favorite podcast.
What is something that you wish people knew about you/ your business/ your products?
That my practice is multi-faceted; I make sculptures, installations, public and private commissions, and public art. I really really love what I do and what I make. I hear from young people all the time that they love making things but they’re scared to pursue it as a profession. My advice is to pursue your passion ruthlessly.
If you could outsource any part of your current process, what task would that be and why?
I would love to outsource marketing! As an artist business owner, I wear a lot of hats and need to know how to do a little bit of everything. But I would so love for someone to take over this aspect of my business so I can focus on the work.
How do you see your work or processes changing in the near future?
I continue to find ways to make my business more efficient. I plan to work smarter, not harder! I also see custom and commission work growing. This is exciting as I love to design. I would love to art direct the functional side of my business and keep my hands in the sculptural side.
Which season is the most difficult for you, sales-wise? When is your busiest? How do you handle those highs and lows?
Since going wholesale, the flow of my business has really changed. My busy seasons are February-April and September-November, which coincides with sending new work to retail stores around the country as they stock up for tourist/holiday season. The traditional holiday buying season has become much more balanced for me and surprisingly I’m taking time to enjoy this time of the year. Summer months tend to be a difficult time sales wise. People seem to spend more money on experiences than objects at this time of year.
What motivates you to do what you do?
What doesn’t?! My dad told me once I had an issue with authority. I now see he’s right. My main motivation for self-employment is to be able to do the things I want, with the people I like, in the places I like, when I want to do them. And I love making things, and I love being around other people who make things, and I love to work, and I love my studio, and I love the places I get to make art outside of my studio. So work makes work. The love for it drives the motivation and the motivation drives the work.
Who has had the greatest impression on you as an entrepreneur?
My dad and my grampa and my mother. My grandfather quit working for the man halfway through his life to open his own framing business. He put his entire life savings into it and retired with a good nest egg for himself and my gram. And they lived happily and comfortably and peacefully. My dad was very motivated to take care of his family and made his business work for him. He adapted some really great techniques to the sales industry that put him in a great place. He’s always strategizing with me on how to grow my business, encouraging me to think big. My mother too! She started a non-profit art center when I was 10. She just went after it! And after that she started her own framing business. She just did it without question. She’s so cool! I wouldn’t be where I am without these people.
Are there any specific makers or creators in general who you think our readers should be paying attention to? What do those people mean to you?
Sometimes I think we need to turn our attention away from the influencer culture and focus more on the inspiration behind art, artists, and products. Influencers are awesome, but trendy, and focus shifts quickly from product to product, and season to season. To that end, I’m spending a lot of time looking at Nasa and National Geographic on Instagram. National Geographic spends time talking about how messed up our planet is and I think we all need to let that sink in more and think about how we can make a better/smaller/greener impact.
What is your favorite thing about running your own business?
The variation in my daily routine, working with awesome interns/assistants, the creative freedom I enjoy in my personal and professional life.
Let’s say that you find some spare time in your schedule… what do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Momming is pretty high on my list of favorite things to do right now. It’s fun to rediscover the world through his eyes. But yoga is my other very favorite thing to do.
What advice would you give to future makers of all ages?
Take care of your body!
Shop a selection of LaurenHB ceramics at THREEFOLD Gifts, where you can find goods from over 50 national professional makers!
Visit us every Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm at 13339 Madison Ave. in Lakewood, Ohio.