Lisa Jones molds clay for a living, but that’s not what she sells. Jones, a self-described dabbler who got her introduction to ceramics at age 8, was an oil painter in high school, moved on to photography in college, and then worked as a graphic designer after graduation. She returned to her roots with the opening of Pigeon Toe in 2009. The SE Morrison St-based operation has grown each year since then, fashioning made-to-order heirlooms for future generations that fit right in on contemporary tables and shelves.
From the start, Pigeon Toe focused on durability. “The hope is that you buy a piece from me, and that’s the only one you need,” says Jones. That doesn’t mean that she is content to remain static, however. Pigeon Toe updates its line twice a year, and their fifth fall batch comes with a brand new wrinkle: wearables. For the first time, jewelry joins the dinnerware and home decorative items that the company has become known for: carefully crafted necklaces born out of good old-fashioned artistic restlessness.
“I’ve been doing this for four solid years,” Jones explains. “We’ve always been very busy and blessed in that way. But it was definitely starting to be a little bit like a grind. I was losing my love of process. And so this season, it really became about letting go of my self-imposed limits of what I was allowed to design within the Pigeon Toe model.”
She wasn’t immediately convinced it would work. “I hadn’t done wearables before, and I was worried that it didn’t make sense for the brand,” she says. But her initial trepidation was quickly put to rest by Courtney Price, Pigeon Toe’s web designer and a collaborator of Jones since their college days.
“Courtney helped me realize that if you’re an artist, you design things that you love, and you’re creating a universe for that brand,” says Jones. “And this Pigeon Toe universe, it’s evolving to be something slightly more conceptual, a little bit more free-form. Normally, I sort of know what I’m going to do, and by the time I actually sit down at the wheel or go into the studio, I know exactly what I’m going to make. This season, it was really about experimentation and playing in a way that I haven’t done in a long time.”
While Jones is adamant that Pigeon Toe will never abandon its traditional inventory, departures like these could become more common . Upgrading last year to a 7,000-square-foot warehouse, the business is steadily diversifying—at its own speed. Pigeon Toe currently occupies 4,000 square feet of the space, sharing the rest with five other brands as part of the newly formed Makery Studio Collective. “We can manage that growth in a way that makes sense for us,” she says. “I don’t want to become a giant, faceless manufacturing studio.”
It’s the next step for a shop that has found a way to branch out while remaining grounded in its commitment to the production of timeless works of art. As Jones puts it: “I want my pieces to be things that your kids argue over when you die.”