Our latest Nails of New York features Eny Lee Parker, an artful ceramist and jewelry designer, known for her terracotta color palettes, stunning lights, sculptural clays, and one-of-a-kind earrings in earthy tones. Read more to learn how she loved painting her mom's friends' nails as a child, why she moved from Savannah to Brooklyn to pursue her artistic career, and her plans to grow her incredible brand.
Any nail nostalgia moments?
I used to do nails for my mom's friends when I was a kid. I had all the mini nail polishes in all different colors, and I'd carry them in my bag whenever we'd go on trips with family friends. They would all schedule time and it was so fun because I was getting paid to do it. I loved it. I still love painting other people's nails - it's very cathartic and soothing for me.
What's your go-to mani?
I usually do solid, neutral colors. A lot of nudes and sometimes black.
When do you notice your nails the most?
When I'm going to a meeting or have to meet somebody.
What was your journey to starting your own company?
It happened very organically - I wasn't really planning on starting a business. While I was in grad school I was able to pick up some press with a couple different magazines and that eventually led me to an artist residency. The artist residency then led me to create the ceramic vases collection, and that led me to getting invited to show at Sight Unseen last year. After that I realized that having a collection shown meant I was a business owner and that I'd have to give people pricing. And then I got an LLC, so we're very fresh. It's been about a year now. It was a very slow thing, but the show last year definitely put me on the map. I was able to do a couple more shows and wrap up my life in Savannah. I moved here in January and got this studio space.
What do you love about making ceramics?
I don't have a background in ceramics. I just took a small class and thought it was really fun. When the residency came up, I pitched this idea of throwing larger and furniture-scale pieces, but I had never thrown anything larger than 16 inches. It was really hard when I first started doing it, but I made this big pot that got some attention. Custom orders started coming in and I realized I had to start buying ceramic equipment. It all just fell into place and I love it.
Clay is great because I usually try to control every aspect of making something. With ceramic, you don't get to fully be in control because you don't know what's going to happen after something is fired. Right now, I have a table base for a client being fired and I'm worried it might have exploded. There's always that anxiety, but it feels really great when it works out. It teaches you to be patient and let things be.
Is there a particular piece that you're most proud of?
Definitely the first piece of furniture that I designed and built. When I got into furniture, I had no idea how to build anything. I was so naive, but I think that actually helped me not limit myself. Looking back, I probably wouldn't have done it knowing what I know now.
It was a compound curve, which involves bending the wood with the grain and against the grain, which is very difficult. It was this chair that was inspired by the butterfly stool, and I absolutely love it. I have never worked harder in my life - I think I put in something like 400-500 hours on that chair. Typically I design things very quickly and I get it done, but I felt like I really, really pushed myself with that project because I had no idea what I was doing.
What's your favorite part of your job?
Sometimes it's really fun. I have moments when I'm in the studio and if it's just me - or even with all the girls - the music is on and it's time spent creating. It's almost like a yoga session because it's quiet and everyone's just in tune and creating. I can't believe I get to do this for a living. It's so epic that I have my own space - it's really great.
What inspires you?
Obviously traveling. I don't want to be cliche, but that's the best time to look at different cultures, traditions, and methods of creating things. We try to do one big international trip a year. Also, my friends are really incredible. They're super talented and I love seeing them work and use their skills, so that's really inspiring. Also just living a healthy life and being able to see beauty in things other than my own helps me grow as an artist.
When do you get your best ideas?
Probably when I'm on caffeine.
Three things you're into right now?
Audibles! I love audiobooks. Also, just the material glass and how artists are using it amazes me. I'll think I've seen every type of glass, but then some artist comes up with a different way of showing it that I haven't seen, and that's really cool. The third thing would be mushrooms. I'm on a mushroom kick!