Handmade and heartfelt: Potters James Klein and David Reid make and market their profitable KleinReid line of porcelain warewithout letting their marriage glaze over – gay-owned Businesses – Brief Article
When it comes to running their business, personal and professional partners James Klein and David Reid take the hands-on approach–literally. “We do it all from scratch,” says Reid, and his words are borne out on a recent visit to the couple’s ceramics studio in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The two potters are hard at work with paper and scissors, arranging cutout prototypes for a series of tea sets and serving pieces on which they’re collaborating with 95-year-old Bauhaus designer Eva Zeisel.
The couple, known professionally as KleinReid, take minute care with the porcelain vases and bowls they describe as modern-day spin-offs of classic pottery forms. Though demand for their products has soared–their work, priced between $45 and $400, can be found at 200 stores worldwide, including New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and Harrods of London–they make all their pieces in-house, even mixing their own porcelain and glazes. “We realized the reason we got into this was because we didn’t find what we wanted out there,” Reid says, “and having a factory make it wouldn’t be what our mission was when we started.”
Klein and Reid have been in business since 1993, and their professional collaboration is no less spectacular because the pair, who met in the mid 1980s in high school in Tallmadge, Ohio, have also been lovers ever since Klein sailed up to Reid and kissed him on the lips at the local gay bar. “We’re always challenged to be honest with each other and not be hurtful but be productive,” says Klein. “The trick is not confusing business and the other aspects of your life.”
Klein and Reid’s inspiration comes from such far-flung sources as American diner china, antique Asian celadons, and Dutch tulipieres, which inspired their crushingly elegant series of rose bowls and tulip vases. Aside from the Zeisel line, which they launched in January, KleinReid’s most recent line is Mudra, a kind of cosmic take on cornucopia vases used by U.S. flower shops starting in the 1930s.
But their chief inspiration comes from each other. “Pottery is like a relationship. It’s always changing. There’s so much to know about it that you’ll never know,” says Klein. “It’s the same reason we are together. I will never understand David, and it’s a constant challenge–there’s something there I need to know, and I know I never will. But it’s the process of trying to understand that is so attractive.”
Find links to other stories about KleinReid and to outlets that sell their work at www.advocate.com
Quittner has written for Business Week, Gourmet, and MSNBC.
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