F5: Helen Levi Can’t Help but Love Marionettes, Simple Cookbooks + More

03.01.24 | By
F5: Helen Levi Can’t Help but Love Marionettes, Simple Cookbooks + More

Helen Levi Ceramics was founded by the eponymous ceramicist in Brooklyn, New York, in 2013 as a one-woman production. Committed to creating a line of small-batch dinnerware and functional pottery, Levi is inspired by the physical process of working with clay. She utilizes several methods of production, including slip casting, wheel throwing, and RAM pressing. Levi’s ceramic work continues to distinguish itself through the use of fluid lines, saturated color choices, and practicality paired with a bit of playfulness.

She first had the chance to sell her work ten years ago, after meeting Steven Alan at a pop-up event in one of his stores. “I had made ceramics as a hobby for most of my life – since being in after-school classes as a child – and Steven was in the process of opening his first home goods store and looking for new vendors,” she shares. The experience ignited a spark, and Levi realized that working with clay full-time could be a viable career path to take. The stars couldn’t have been more aligned, as she was in her mid-20s trying to decide whether or not to attend graduate school. Now, the answer seemed far more clear.

black and white image of a light-skinned woman with shoulder-length dark hair

Helen Levi

When ideas show up, Levi doesn’t need to record them because she’s likely already at the studio. “I’ll be pouring slip into a mold, or at the wheel, or at the glazing table, and I think, hmm, why don’t I just try it this other way, just to see?” It’s all in real-time – no notebooks, no drawings, only hands-on experimentation. “It’s through the act of production that I find most inspiration, which is just one of the reasons that it’s so important for me to have time in the studio,” Levi explains.

Levi is a born and raised New Yorker, one who could see a sliver of the Empire State building from her childhood bedroom window, who now calls Ridgewood, Queens, home. Her studio and shop are also in the neighborhood. Living near work has its pros (see above) and cons, and the importance of switching from a work mindset to your personal life can’t be overlooked. For Levi, it’s as simple as changing her clothes. “For work, I have three pairs of jeans designated – they’re always dusty, and I would never want to sit on my couch in them,” she says. “I also wear Crocs or other rubbery slip-on shoes, which are not allowed in my apartment either.” Once she’s changed into or out of her studio clothes, the transition is complete.

We’re happy to have Helen Levi join us for this week’s Friday Five!

Photo: Courtesy of Bob Baker Marionette Theater

1. Bob Baker Marionette Theater

My husband is from Los Angeles, so we regularly go there to visit family. Over the holidays, we took our son to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and I was so charmed by the experience, beginning to end. It’s one of those places that you just feel like, I’m so glad this exists. Not to mention every ticket comes with an ice cream after.

German bar

Photo courtesy of Zum Stammticsh

2. Zum Stammtisch Beer Hall

Speaking of a charming experience, if you find yourself in the Ridgewood neighborhood with a car (visiting my studio shop, perhaps?), there’s a super traditional German Beer hall in nearby Glendale called Zum Stammtisch, where not only do they have a stocked specialty foods store, but the waitresses are decked out in traditional dress – and the food is really very good.

small red and black smiling vacuum

3. Henry, the Tiny Desk Vacuum

For Christmas, we got this adorable tiny desk vacuum for my sister-in-law, whose specialty is making miniatures for film sets. As soon as she opened it, my three-year-old walked up to her and said, “This is for sharing.” And I kicked myself for not realizing it’s the perfect toddler gift.

Photo: Screengrab from YouTube

4. The Helen Herald’s Good Clean Fun Segment

In the fall, I started a new newsletter called The Helen Herald that includes my own picks and recs, which is a really fun excuse for me to scour the web for delights. One of my fave segments is called “Good Clean Fun,” which is just a link to a wholesome bit of feel-good comedy. From the first issue, a throwback can be seen above.

cover of a cookbook reading It's Not Complicated Simple Recipes for Everyday Katie Lee Biegel

Photo courtesy of Barnes & Noble

5. It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day

I recently culled my cookbook collection, but there’s one I really find useful, the first time I bought a cookbook from someone I followed on Instagram. When she says ‘it’s not complicated’ it really isn’t. That’s my kind of weeknight reference book.



Work by Helen Levi:

hand holding three pastel colored mini mugs

Mini Mugs

white and brown swirled standing clock

Standing Clock, Bayou

wall shelves stacked with colorful ceramics

stacked handmade dinner plate, salad plate, and bowl

Squid Dinnerware

two side-by-side mugs with a snake painted on each

Serpent Mugs

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.