Above: Julian Peploe and David Ryan, the founders of Stone and Sawyer. Photo by Rocky Casale.
On a recent sunny morning, a fan was going full blast in the ceramics studio of Stone and Sawyer, a new lamp-making business in the Delaware County town of Delhi—but it wasn’t for the benefit of the proprietors, David Ryan and Julian Peploe, or this visiting reporter.
Rather, the breeze was aimed at a plaster mold airing out on a table. An interior design firm had commissioned a prototype for a tall, custom table lamp for a new hotel in Washington, D.C., and the stoneware body for the lamp had to be slip-cast, using the mold in question, before it could be sanded, washed, fired, sanded, washed, glazed and then fired again.
Above: Current Stone and Sawyer lamp designs. Photo courtesy of Stone and Sawyer.
“This mold needs to dry!” said Ryan, re-positioning the fan.
Ever since launching their business in November 2014, Ryan and Peploe have been busy filling orders for their handmade table lamps, which come in five styles reminiscent of mid-century Scandinavian designs; a sixth—a squat, curvaceous form called The Hilo—will be introduced within a month.
The lamp bodies are all made here in the Depot Street studio, which began life as a creamery and later did time as a disco. Then the stoneware pieces are transported to a converted barn that the partners rent six miles north, on County Road 14—Stone and Sawyer headquarters—where they are united with hand-turned black walnut stems and bases, blacked-brass fittings, linen shades and cloth-wrapped electrical cords, all the parts put together in the second-floor workshop under the steeply pitched ceiling.
Above: David Ryan, co-founder of Stone and Sawyer, assembles lamps in the barn. Photo by Jane Margolies.
Thirteen years ago the men—then life partners, now best friends—were residing in the barn while they built their own house on 87 nearby acres. During the week, Ryan, a Michigan-born artist, painted moody landscapes, while Peploe, who comes from England, worked in Manhattan as an art director, designing album covers for the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and the Killers.
On weekends Peploe joined Ryan, and over the course of six years they finished off rooms, erected outbuildings and landscaped the grounds—teaching themselves how to do things as they went along.
“We discovered we worked well together,” said Peploe, who is 46 years old.
Above: Experimental glazes in the ceramics studio. Photo by Jane Margolies.
At the time, Peploe was growing bored with graphic design, which calls for staring at a computer screen for hours on end. He was itching to make something with his hands, and had always dreamed of starting a business.
He and Ryan, 51, briefly considered opening a shortbread-baking company, but then they took inspiration from Ryan’s collection of vintage lamps, gathered on travels.
Lamps appealed to them, Peploe explained, because they combine the beauty of shapely forms and intriguing finishes with the practicality of providing a crucial function: shedding light. Besides, Peploe pointed out, with the antiques, “It’s always so hard to find matching pairs.”
The partners batted around names for their company until they came up with one that “evokes the materials and processes that go into the lamps,” said Ryan—“stone” for the stoneware ceramic of the lamp bodies and “sawyer” for someone who saws wood, used for the stems and bases.
Above: Julian Peploe, co-founder of Stone and Sawyer, in the firm's ceramics studio. Photo by Jane Margolies.
They devised six original designs for their first collection, then set about figuring out how to get all the parts produced. Initially they thought they’d have another company mold the lamp bodies, but after giving themselves a crash course in ceramics, they decided to make the bodies themselves.
Wood parts are turned on a lathe to their specs by a cabinetmaker near Cobleskill, and all the other components come from small companies no farther away than Connecticut and New Jersey, according to Peploe, who now lives full-time with Ryan at the house they built together.
So far, they’ve sold 600 lamps, which range in price from $445 to $525, with orders primarily placed through the company’s website. The lamps are also sold in retail stores in Los Angeles, Manhattan and Hudson, New York. And then there are the occasional hotel orders.
Even before the company’s official launch, the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca commissioned 310 lamps for their guestrooms. That order kept the big red kilns in Stone and Sawyer’s ceramics studio firing around the clock for two weeks, and it also helped the partners work out the kinks in their production process.
Above: The Miller, the firm's best-selling lamp design, and the Hilo, a new model that will be released later this month. Photo courtesy of Stone and Sawyer.
One of the designs ordered by the hotel—The Miller, whose shape calls to mind a glass beaker from a chem lab—remains their bestseller. The firm’s handsome wares have earned the company shout-outs in Wallpaper magazine and on blogs devoted to decorating and the artisanal crafts movement.
Though the Stone and Sawyer operation is still small—they have one full-time studio employee and a part-time helper at the barn—the partners have big ambitions. They ultimately hope to become a full-fledged home goods company and hire more area residents, they said.
This fall they will begin rolling out their second lamp collection, and they’re working on a line of smaller, more affordable tabletop items, such as vases and bowls. They’d also like to expand into so-called soft goods, including pillows and throws.
And for those who like Stone and Sawyer’s current designs but can’t afford the prices, there’s good news: The partners have a stash of “seconds” parts—ceramic bodies that might possess a couple of pinholes or walnut bases that might have checks in the wood—and plan to hold a sample sale later this year. (To find out when it will be, email the firm at i[email protected].)
Above: This converted barn in Delhi is command central for Stone and Sawyer. Photo by Jane Margolies.
Can’t wait? Make an appointment to visit the barn and pick out the parts for a lamp that can be assembled on the spot. Although the “seconds” pieces might vary slightly from what’s shown on the Stone and Sawyer website, they’re no less beautiful.
“Some people,” Peploe said, “actually prefer them.”