Brand Stories: Touchstones

Touchstones Ceramics Pottery New Zealand "I Am Balanced" Naturopath Nutritionist Auckland "Mount Eden" Gifts Women’s Health

Meet Lisa and Scott, the duo behind Touchstones.

How do you get inspired?

Inspiration is often simply there, just waiting for the right time to explore it, and to find what media is best to capture a concept, a moment of light, or a specific idea in.

The natural world often has forms or colours that are the language that we use to communicate these ideas. Other times the media (material) will be the source of inspiration, such as the specific shape of a pebble or a type of clay, it's then about releasing the form hidden within it. We work in wood, ceramics, stone, bone, light and space, photography – each have their own unique properties that challenge and inspire us to keep learning, evolving, and growing.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before this?

Scott and Lisa are both Architects and we run our own studio Donnell Day Architects together.

Touchstones is a collection of our artistic explorative works that run in parallel with that.

Tell us about the birth of your business.

We have both been making and creating from a very young age, it’s in the blood. Touchstones started off with Lisa seeing the evolution in the creative work we were making in our spare time and realising there was a story in it. She started by taking photographs of Scott’s stone carvings, (they were too beautiful not to!) and then creating a blog and Instagram to record our artistic journey together. It began as more of a ‘diary’ of what we were making and learning at the time, and started evolving as people took an interest in wanting to own a unique piece.

With ceramics, because both of us had pretty high expectations for what we were wanting to produce but were on a very steep learning curve after only having picked it up 18 months ago, we felt a bit nervous about offering them to anyone. It became a bit of a lesson in seeing that a feature for us was a flaw on a vessel, was a character feature to another person. It certainly helped us understand the Japanese wabi sabi philosophy in ways we truly hadn’t appreciated before then. We are still fussy about what is released, but have learnt to be more accepting and appreciating aspects that show something is ‘handmade’, and accepting of where we are at in our own learning curve rather than trying to emulate something from a factory line.

Are there any values or ideas that you will always base your business decisions on?

Touchstones for us is, and will always be, about the process. The method of creating, learning and evolving as artists for us personally is about making time to step into our ‘creative flow’ and seeing where it takes us. There is an enjoyment in seeing something beautiful emerge from the raw materials and exploring ideas.

Unlike Architecture – where form & function frequently require extensive paperwork and typically is a long detailed, exacting process from the beginning concept to the end built form – the art of Touchstones is for us an immediate way of exploring & modelling spatial ideas and the body’s response to them. We love seeing someone else’s enjoyment from the use of a bowl where the proportions are designed to fit into the cradle of their hand, or jewellery that fits the curve of your body and evoke aspects of your favourite places whether in colour or form.

What do you love most about your products? And what’s your favourite product. Pick one!

We both have our favourite types of coffee cups – you know the ones you always look for in the cupboard in the morning. Lisa loves the coffee cups with the honed surfaces that stimulate the sense of touch, Scott heads towards the shapes that are designed to sit well within his hand. Looking at our collections, they are often a response to how a piece makes you feel – whether it’s through stimulating the senses through the burnished surfaces, creating a mindful moment as you take a sip of tea, or creating spaces that are designed to suit your body’s intuitive response to texture, volume and light. The vessels and objects evolve as we do – being handmade they are often perfectly imperfect, and that’s something that we have grown to love and appreciate about them – they tell a story about their process, the maker and the materials, and for us are a bit of a timeline as we have perfected or experiment with different techniques.

The natural world often has forms or colours that are the language that we use to communicate these ideas.

What are your personality traits that have helped you with your successes?

For us, a Touchstones success is when we have created a piece (whether ceramics, jewellery, photography) that represents the idea we are trying to communicate beautifully, and that is loved by its new owner.

For Scott, his pursuit of the ideal form hidden within materials is awesome. He questions what a material is capable of and challenges that – pushing the boundaries with wafer thin stone and bone carvings, or honing the surfaces of ceramics so that they are like velvet to touch, and creating elegant forms from blended clay. For Lisa, her intuitive design approach leads her to create functional forms that fit beautifully and feel right in their context. They are designed around celebrating precious moments in time, such as mindfully drinking tea or that first morning coffee, and are rich in colour explorations. She has an inner drive to make the world a better place through good design, and is the reason you may have a piece of our work in your hands right now…. otherwise our mantlepiece would be overflowing. Each of us has our own stamp on the bottom of our ceramics, you can always see whose hands have made your vessel.

Together we make a great team.

Have there been unexpected life or business lessons since this journey started? Please share!

We may be a little different to most, as it has been about trying to ensure it retains a freedom of expression rather than the feel of a production line, that has been an important lesson to learn that it is essential we retain that aspect.

For Touchstones we learnt to establish that our collections need to be limited edition, and to ensure that we delegated sales to those for whom it was their passion. Because this is the artistic side of our studio – we needed to be careful about aspects that would encroach on family time, our creative time, and our architecture studio – there are only so many hours in the day.

So instead of managing an online shop ourselves, people come to us who love the pieces, and who want to explore creating or stocking some unique handcrafted products for their stores.

What are some things that you do to take care of yourself?

Ensuring we have taken time to rest, play, make, and work is important to our well being. Time with the kids, time for ourselves (often to make something!), yoga, walks on black sand beaches and in nature, helps us stay grounded.

If things feel out of alignment, it's often because we have been busy, and neglected one of those things.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself and your business?

Touchstones is about life. It’s about balance, and it was formed as a way of sharing and exploring our ideas. It is designed to be a simple means of filling your world with beauty that not only brings joy to your everyday, but is functional and practical.

Touchstones Ceramics Pottery New Zealand "I Am Balanced" Naturopath Nutritionist Auckland "Mount Eden" Gifts Women’s Health

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