A visit to any shop flaunting designs by indie makers shows that Los Angeles' ceramics boom continues to explode. But among the copious saguaro-style incense holders and anonymous stoneware containers, one designer stands apart: Heather Levine. She's perhaps best known for her ceramic pendant lamps, those sleekly designed, colorfully glazed objects adorned with porous pinholes, teardrops or ovals. Light leaks through the cutouts, projecting forms onto the walls of a room, turning an ordinary space into a galaxy of shapes. She fashions wall hangings of the leftover clay circles and shards, which are dangled from branches that she sometimes sources from locations around California. For some, their introduction to Levine's works is at the Ojai Rancho Inn, the motel turned haven of hipness, which showcases her lamps in every bedroom and in the mellow poolside bar, Chief's Peak. Levine's workshop in an industrial expanse between Cypress Park and Atwater Village is packed with her ceramics. The mushroomlike table lamps hunched on a nearby table aren't destined for a hobbit house or the home of a mycologist; they're headed to the Standard Hotel in the East Village to help amplify the pharmacological feel to its stylish new hot spot, narcbar. Shelf upon shelf is lined with finished pieces, which are impossible not to anthropomorphize. They stare back at you like a gaggle of Muppets up for adoption, expressing their personalities through their polka dots or narrowly squinting cutouts. Levine occasionally has a studio sale, which draws a long line, she says, but she sells her wall hangings online and at L.A. shops including Dream Collective and General Store in Venice. Lamps are mostly commissions, which you can dream up with Levine. Since she creates each piece by hand, no two pieces are exactly alike. Like all of us, ceramics are products of their environment; each piece responds differently to the world in which it is made, surviving the heat of the kiln, resisting the pull of gravity and responding to the touch of its creator. And in Levine's hands, clay comes alive.
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