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Potter’s Clay

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Local artist uses 100 days to find inspiration for her distinct designs

Attuned to botanical plants and abstract design, ceramist Lalese Stamps of Lolly Lolly Ceramics brings her tactile works to life with jubilance and awareness of her dedicated following.

“There are qualities that still make my ceramics feel like me, but I appreciate that I’ve been able to refine my methods and final products,” Stamps shared. “My work is definitely more dignified, intentional and polished.”

Launching her handmade ceramic practice into an established profession, Lolly Lolly Ceramics became distinct for offering functional, modern pieces that could also serve as displayed artwork. With a whimsical, monochromatic execution behind Stamps’ works, the Milwaukee transplant jump-started the “100 Day Project,” a mug-design venture that lasted from September to December of 2019, jolting Stamps out of her creative comfort zone.

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“Before the 100 Day Project, I didn’t really give myself the time to explore clay. I made things that felt safe and comfortable to me, but this project really pushed me to see objects in my day-to-day life that inspired new ideas,” Stamps said. “I would see something like a door handle, for example, and reimagine it as a handle for a mug. Now I’m always looking for inspiration in my daily life instead of solely on the internet.”

As the sales of homegoods have increased drastically since the beginning of the pandemic, quarantine was initially a challenge for Stamps whose online presence became exceedingly visible through Black-owned art directories. Optimizing the increase in her customer base, Stamps pivoted from the creative side into restrategizing Lolly Lolly Ceramics’ business model. 

“It was super unexpected that my audience would grow tenfold during one of the hardest years ever. 2020 was tough, but it was also one of the best years for Lolly Lolly Ceramics,” she said of her exclusive line of products that are only offered in small batches and not always ready for immediate purchase. “I’m still figuring out a lot, but it’s coming together. I’ve received so much support in so many different ways; it’s been a game changer.”

Stamps still allows herself time to breathe between creating and interacting with consumers, of which her audience is primarily women. A self-care enthusiast, Stamps connects with her social media following to unwind, while simultaneously making time for herself. 

“[For those who] follow me on Instagram, you might see me in the bathtub on my Instagram stories. Taking baths is my only real form of self-care at the moment. I love reading, so I tend to read more when I’m in the bath so that I’m not distracted by my computer or television,” Stamps said.

Looking to other ceramists for reference, like Helen Levi, Mimi Likey and Haley Ann Bradley, it was during a by-chance interaction with Alex and Connie Matisse, co-founders of Asheville-based durable ceramic brand East Fork that Stamps found like-minded people who could offer support and inspiration. 

“Connie and Alex have been supportive of me in my journey of being a ceramicist and business owner. They’ve even chatted with me on the phone to talk through pain points,” Stamps said. “It’s that kind of camaraderie in the clay community that I appreciate so much.”

As one of the few Black women in the clay industry, Stamps admits to feeling pressure, especially as growing up in America has shaped her identity as an artist in a myriad of ways. Constantly looking to provide resources and aid to grassroot organizations that are dedicated to fighting for equality through direct action, Stamps acknowledges the revitalized support of Black-owned businesses during a time of social unrest.

“I feel as if every decision I make isn’t just about me or my business, but a representation of Black people in general, which can be hard sometimes,” she said. “I’m proud to be Black, though, and I’m especially proud to know that Lolly Lolly Ceramics can have a major impact by investing in other Black businesses and Black communities. It’s very exciting and it inspires me to get up and go into work every day.”

Cultivating space to advocate for creatives in the early stages of their career, Stamps encourages new artists to be their own fans first, because not everyone will understand their intent. In becoming self-sufficient and building an artist network, Stamps hasn’t been idle in her progress—gaining viral momentum has been a reminder of Lolly Lolly Ceramics’ staying power.

“Over the years I’ve realized that art is literally whatever you want it to be,” Stamps said. “I’ve always known that, but sometimes when you’re young, you’re heavily influenced by your surroundings, but there is a much bigger world out there.”

Learn more at lollylollyceramics.com, though the exclusive art pieces are released only in small batches and not always available for immediate purchase. See the FAQ section for more details.

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