The Mug Shot: L’Impatience puts a French touch to everyday ceramics | Design and decoration | Hudson Valley
As the holidays approach, think long and hard about your gifts, they just might launch a new career.
In 2017, Jérôme and Bénédicte Leclere were living in Brooklyn, both working in advertising. To decompress from their exhilarating and computer work, the couple – in love with the French high school – had tried multiple forms of tactile arts and crafts over the years, including woodworking and sculpture, knitting, macrame, sewing and even the cultivation of bonsai. So that year, for Christmas, Jérôme decided to offer Benedict a two-hour introductory pottery class. “It blew me away,” Bénédicte said of this first experience. “I got obsessed right away.”
Four years later, the couple live in Saugerties; they have a child and a thriving, out-of-stock ceramic company, L’Impatience, which employs them both; and their mugs have been featured twice on Food52.
“Back then, it was hard to imagine that this would become our life,” Jerome says of that fateful Christmas present. The introductory workshop gave way to regular classes and then paid studio time. Eventually, Jérôme and a few friends teamed up to buy his own wheel from fanatic Bénédicte. She set up a small studio in a corner of their apartment.
It was then that Jérôme tried his hand at throwing for the first time. “Personally, I didn’t think I would like this,” he says. “But it’s funny, it ticks all the boxes. We are both quite creative and have always loved crafts. Bénédicte taught her everything she learned in class every week. “It has become a real obsession for both of us,” she says.
As the couple continued to cultivate their skills, they began to search for a house in the upstate, eventually landing in a house in Saugerties. After it closed in October 2018, the idea of a weekend home morphed into a full-time move with a plan to continue doing freelance advertising work.
The upward move of the state catapulted the Lecleres ship to the next level. In Brooklyn, they would create pieces in their apartment and take them to the ceramic studio in an Uber to be sent back, a process that could take two to three weeks and over which they had no control. “We did not have access to the ovens, remembers Bénédicte. “We couldn’t really see what was going on. It was very limiting. ”
With their own studio and with an oven, the Leclere were able to master all the production variables and re-enter the feedback loop. “There are so many things that can affect the piece in the final stages: the amount of glaze, where you’re going to put it in the oven, how long you’re going to bake it,” says Benedicte. “In town, we didn’t know if this room was like that because it was not placed well on the shelf or because it was too high. Being able to do all of these tests on our own has really helped us to change and improve a lot. ”
Rather than working with common red clay and using glazes to add a brilliant color, the Lecleres opted for white sandstone clay, which they stained directly using ceramic stains. This means that each batch of clay is colored and mixed by hand before being discarded – a painstaking process that results in a solid color throughout, giving the pieces a kind of artistic integrity that appeals to the couple. “We like the idea that the whole piece is one color,” says Benedicte. “If you pick it up, it’s not a different color underneath. If you break it, it doesn’t reveal anything.
Fired at 2,232 degrees Fahrenheit, sandstone undergoes a process called vitrification, during which it becomes completely solid. “It becomes so dense that there is no water leak,” explains Jérôme. Since the high temperature process results in watertight containers, the Lecleres are not tied to an integral glaze as a sealing measure. Instead, they developed a distinctive style, leaving the exterior of their cups, pitchers and vases unglazed and the interior enameled (for food safety). “We love this contrast between the shiny and shiny effect of the interior and the exterior of the room which has a rougher feel.”
The Impatience range includes a candle holder, button vases and bouquet vases, planters, dinner and dessert plates, bowls, aroma burners, mugs, colanders and pitchers. The product selection is divided into collections by color. L’Impure is a classic white sandstone, L’ingenu is a soft coral color and L’insolence is a greyish forest green. Accept imperfections (and save money) with the Imperfect collection, which features parts with small cracks, burn marks, minor cosmetic flaws, or a mismatched color.
“The fun thing about ceramics is that there is no limit to what you can create,” says Benedicte. “There are a lot of chemical reactions and it’s going to depend so much on which clay, which glaze. But the possibilities are endless and the learning process is endless. No one can say he knows everything. It’s really exciting. ”
Stroll in Kismet
In April 2019, the week scheduled for Bénédicte, the baby showed no sign of arrival. So the couple decided to get out of the house and take a walk to shake things up. Across the river in Hudson, they walked into Flowerkraut, a flower and houseplant shop, and ended up buying a bouquet. Like any good florist, shopkeeper Amanda Bruns asked the couple if they had a vase at home. “We said, ‘we’re actually making vases,’ says Bénédicte, recalling the chance conversation that led to the couple’s very first bulk order. “We told her, ‘we’re going to have this baby, and then we’ll start your order,’” she laughs.
Bruns’ order was the confidence boost Les Leclères needed. After finding a daycare center, the couple began calling stores in the Hudson Valley and accessing the Faire Wholesaler Market, which put them in touch with small traders across the country. Lo and behold, in a few months, they had more orders than they could fill. “We had to stop all our other work,” says Bénédicte.
They had just taken a step forward when COVID threw a wrench into their wholesale plans. But after a frightening and abrupt shutdown, suddenly, in April, retailer interest skyrocketed. “I guess because people were staying at home and not spending so much money in restaurants, they decided they wanted to watch nice things,” Benedicte says. “The interest has gotten pretty big and pretty overwhelming. It was too much for us to handle. We did not have enough inventory to sell directly to consumers.
In June, they began renting 1,200 square feet of space in Midtown Kingston, a tenfold upgrade to their home studio. Yet in just six months they have already passed it and they are still catching up with the backs. In January, they’ll trade in for 3,500 square feet of space in the Fuller Building. The Leclere have also just hired their first two employees, hobbyist ceramists who help with order picking and packing while honing their wheel skills. “It’s always very scary to get fat, but at the same time it was so frustrating to see that the orders were coming in but we couldn’t do them because we didn’t have enough hands and time,” says Benedict. “Having employees allows us to have more time behind the wheel. Soon we’ll be done catching up and being able to plan ahead.
Right now they are planning their Studio Holiday Market open this weekend, December 11-12, where they will be joined by ceramicists Lail Design and Suga Pottery, with coffee from the Black Dot Cafe in Stone Ridge and flowers. by Flowerkraut. “It’s a market for great friends and an opportunity to share our space,” says Benedicte — a final hurray before moving to Broadway.
The market will take place on Saturday December 11 from 10 am to 5 pm; and Sunday 11 am-4pm at L’Impatience Studio at 534 Broadway, Kingston.