North Carolina-based Suite One Studio has a simple mission: Making mealtimes beautiful! Founded by ceramicist Lindsay Emery and specializing in handmade tableware, the company’s distinctive designs have garnered a loyal and enthusiastic following (just ask one of their 90K Instagram followers). Not bad for someone who went from college student to small business owner overnight. Rather than doing full dinnerware sets, each Suite One Studio piece is intended to mix and match with your favorite vintage pieces, and Lindsay herself is frequently sourcing vintage tableware from flea markets and antique shops, adding her best finds to our Suite One Studio for Chairish collection (check it out HERE!). “Every item in my Chairish collection was selected with that mix and match ability in mind,” says Lindsay.
We sat down with this extraordinary maker who reveals how she got her start, her philosophy on failure, and some secrets to her success.
Can you share the story behind the start of Suite One Studio?
“I was a college student juggling two jobs when I started my business. I didn’t have a grand plan, or a business plan for that matter. I did however have a lot of pottery from my coursework as an art major and one of my side gigs as a kid’s pottery instructor. It was 2009 and I’d begun hearing about Etsy from creative friends and decided I’d set up a shop for my ceramic overflow. I learned directly from customers what the market wanted and realized there was a big gap for modern, handmade, feminine pottery.”
Where does the name Suite One Studio come from?
“This question always makes me chuckle because I still remember sitting in my tiny rental kitchen at my laptop when I landed on this name. One of my jobs at the time was as a server at a rustic, family owned Barbecue joint in Virginia and many of the regulars there started warmly referring to me as, “The Sweet One.” I wanted a business name that was a little less saccharin but phonetically implied the same sentiment, capturing the way I felt toward my work, while also working for whatever my business may evolve into. Honestly, I wasn’t sure the ceramic thing would stick, so I intentionally opted for a name that provided me with a little creative wiggle room.”
Tell us about your creative process.
“I’m a visually motivated person, so my eyes are always working my environment pulling inspiration and ideas. I may notice the juxtaposition of a woman’s dress on the other side of the street against a worn, paint-chipped storefront and that could influence a glaze combination months later. In the studio, I work to celebrate the natural variations and rhythms of the particular media, not against it. That’s why you’ll find organic rims, painterly brushstrokes, and flowing glazes. I want the pieces to appear handmade in the most elevated way possible.”
I learned directly from customers what the market wanted and realized there was a big gap for modern, handmade, feminine pottery.
How do you go from an idea to an actual piece?
“Getting into the studio and getting dirty is the only way for me to know if an idea is really going to work. SO many of my ideas fail. It’s just part of the ceramic process that I accept and strive to grow from. Often the failed ideas lead directly to my strongest products. Enough years have passed that I now can trust that process. Clay as a material is notoriously uncompromising, and now that I’ve begun designing glassware, I’m learning that glass is similarly in charge. Any finished product design you see from Suite One Studio probably had a dozen failed prototypes behind it—which is something I’ve grown quite proud of—we’re only ever releasing our very best.”
What are some of your favorite ways to mix vintage with your original pieces?
“My absolute favorite vintage pairing with my work is Sascha Brastoff’s Mid-Century “Surf Ballet” pattern. Those marbled pinks and gold luster are a dreamy companion. I intentionally design my work to mix in with whatever you may already have in your cupboard, and it’s surprising just how many vintage pieces will look right at home with my designs. My advice for mixing vintage with my pieces is this: Either keep a simple form and go crazy with the color and pattern, or pick an intricate form in a very restrained palette. The rest just works.”
What’s next for Suite One Studio?
“I have several exciting projects in the works, some which are scheduled for release this holiday season, so stay tuned on Instagram for those details! I’m expanding into more design licensing and looking forward to designing products beyond ceramic and glass. For a teaser: You can expect more design partnerships like my commercial design collaboration collection available through Anthropologie, and another special partnership with Chairish in the spring!”
Lindsay’s Secrets to Success
Put Customers First
Happy clients, beautiful, functional products, social media, and press are the magical combination for the success of my business. Every item I design and make is created with my customers in mind. Delivering on their expectations—and exceeding them, is crucial. Happy clients spread the word through a variety of means, even those coveted, glossy magazine features!
Show Up on Social
I love Instagram and being a part of that community, connecting directly with clients and sharing my work is something I’ve become very passionate about. I aim to post at least once a day and this consistency is something my followers have grown to expect from me, this is also a piece of advice I would pass along to others. It’s important to show up, share inspiring (but achievable) content, and speak with your authentic voice.
Stay Up on Trends
I scan and scroll through Instagram and Pinterest a lot! But really, it’s the process of quickly scanning that is surprisingly one of the most useful ways I spot trends and get inspired. It’s easy to get distracted by the details, and I while I live for the details, when I’m trying to get a pulse on trends and the market nothing beats a fast scan!
Happy clients, beautiful functional products, social media, and press are the magical combination for the success of my business.
Photos Courtesy of Suite One Studio