People sometimes wonder where I find inspiration for blog topics, and there’s no one answer. However, one of my favorite sources is Instagram. There’s something nice about such a visual source.
Frequently, something beautiful catches my eye and I research a bit further. Such is the case with Leslie Freeman Designs which consists of beautiful handmade pottery and jewelry.
Her pottery pieces are clean and simple with pops of color. The simplicity draws you in. I wondered about her Vineyard story. And lucky for me, she lives one town over.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, I headed to her home in Vineyard Haven, where her pottery studio is located. The door to the garage is open and there are stacks upon stacks of pottery, some done, some waiting to be completed.
There are so many because almost every order Leslie does is custom. Once pieces and colors are chosen, then the order is filled, finished to order
Leslie moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1978. She’s a tall, lovely woman, so I can imagine that she loved it from the get-go, and soon as she was here, she felt like she had come home which is what so many longtime Islanders tell me. Also, it’s no surprise that Leslie has an amazing Vineyard story with her time on the Island.
She began apprenticing with Joe McCarron, who was a potter, and worked with him for three years. She became part of the Studio Artworkers Guild which was across from where Crane Appliance is.
There, many artists worked together. It was a small cooperative where artists could also sell their work.
At the time, the Island was definitely a tourist place but not to the extent it is today. The year round population was 5,000 people. There were a lot of young people and it was a wonderful time to explore as an artist.
Leslie had always been drawn to textiles. So she began to sew for Island designers including Lorraine Parrish and Valerie Beggs (not familiar with).
She really enjoyed working with clothing. So when she had her two daughters, Althea and Emily, she branched out and began a children’s clothing line with beautiful, colorful block prints.
Her clothing was very well received. She sold her clothing in the iconic Bramhall and Dunn that used to be in Vineyard Haven, and to the one on Nantucket as well. She couldn’t keep up with the demand.
She then opened her own shop, Island Children, Althea & Emily Designs, down by where the Black Dog is. But the space got flooded one to many times. So she opened in a different location, where the Gypsy Suitcase is on Main Street.
There, she continued to design, make, and sell her clothes. Not only could you get them here but you could get them in boutiques all over the country! Her clothes were colorful and full of fun prints.
They remind me of an early Tea Collection. Her fabrics were unique and her clothes could be found on almost every child on the Island. She was very successful, and she has a long list of celebrity kids that wore her clothing! Ask her sometime about it — the Vineyard is an amazing place.
But ah, the market was not too kind to this cottage industry. Making everything here and shipping it off, it all became too expensive sadly. She had to close her store.
Being so creative, Leslie worked on her pottery as a way to continue to make money as an artist. For 13 years, she could be found at the Vineyard Artisans Fair. She did well and her pottery was very popular. However, traveling with pottery was not that easy.
In 2001, Leslie bought her home and really dove into pottery. Her garage was the perfect location for her studio. As fate would have it, the economy took a turn and then Leslie had to get creative.
Early on, she was a member of Etsy. Etsy has continued to grow over the years and supply a platform for artist to sell there wares. Nowadays, Leslie can hardly keep up with her online orders. Etsy has been a huge revenue generator for her.
In addition, two very popular websites, F00d 52 (for the foodies) and Houzz (for design fans) asked to carry her pottery. Both had discovered her on Etsy, and both cater to an upscale clientele. Take a look at how beautiful her dishes look in this image from Food 52.
With these three websites, Leslie is able make a living as an artist, creating her pottery. Sadly there is no retail store on Martha’s Vineyard that currently carries her work. Wholesale doesn’t work. The margins would be too low.
However, that’s not to say you can’t get your own Leslie Freeman Designs. You can check out all her products on Etsy and some on Facebook and contact her. You can arrange for a pick-up and voila, you’ve got your own functional beauty for everyday use.
I keep saying functional beauty because her pottery is so simple yet so beautiful. The simple designs are even a bit deceptive because each piece is hand glazed. So everyone is unique and takes some time to create.
When you hold a piece, it’s so smooth and comfortable in your hand. When you look at it, you can see the time it takes to create the look of it, not so simple after all.
Leslie is drawn to color, so she has around 50 to choose from. The Island has been an amazing source for many of her colors. However, her newest collection of earthtone colors is my favorite.
There is one color, this brownish grey that I loved. It reminded me of the beach on a stormy day. The grey of the sky, the brown of the beach. I want a whole set! I wish I was able to really capture the color but my iPhone let me down.
Luckily, her collections are dishwasher and microwaveable safe.
Her pottery kilns are firing everyday. She’s so grateful to have so much business. Though busy, she’d love to see more of her pottery in Island homes. From dinner sets to mugs to pie plates to mugs to serving bowls, there is something for anyone’s home.
I think her designs could fit into any style of home, traditional, modern, country — it can work. Leslie Freeman Design pottery ranges in price from $24 to $300. A three piece dinner set is under a $100.00.
Before I end this though, I have to mention her jewelry as well, which can be found at Citrine in Vineyard Haven and on Etsy.
I had to try it on. It’s sold with brass bangles for a truly stunning effect, but these are so popular, she needs to make more. Seems like Leslie has the midas touch!
You will also be able to find Leslie’s jewelry this summer at the Chilmark Flea. Her daughters, Althea, who works with block prints, and Emily, who makes jewelry, will have Leslie’s good with them there.
Thanks for reading On Point. You can learn more about Leslie Freeman Designs on Facebook and her Etsy page. And speaking of social media, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, linkedin, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.
Also, I just wanted to mention that next week there won’t be the usual two On Point blogs, this writer is heading south for the week to catch up with friends and vitamin D.