Twenty-some years ago, artist Leonie Lacouette realized she needed a clock in her pottery studio in Gardiner. She’d seen a magazine ad offering battery-run mechanisms, and decided to order half a dozen so that she could make one clock for herself, and five more to sell. The five sold immediately. “I didn’t graduate art school thinking ‘I’m going to be a clockmaker,’ ” she says. “But I realized functional art was something I could make a living from.”
About a year later, Lacouette decided to make clocks out of recycled metal instead of clay. “My pottery studio was in an old farmhouse cellar, and I didn’t want to be a mole any more. I had an above-ground studio where I did metal work, so I just made the switch.”
Lacouette grew up in Manhattan, where she attended the High School of Art and Design. “But my grandfather bought a farm in Gardiner a zillion years ago in the ’30s, so I was a country-city girl,” she says. “I studied art at SUNY New Paltz, and I knew I would stay after I graduated. The way of life is much more appealing. And anyway, by then I was in love with my husband, who has deep roots here.”
In high school, Lacouette studied illustration. “But at college, I couldn’t make up my mind, so I took courses in sculpture, painting, metalsmithing. I have a BSA in ceramics, but there was always so much metal in my studio space in the ceramics department, they used to joke they’d come in with a big magnet to clean it up. I had all kinds of computer parts, recycled PC boards, copper-plated hard-drive discs…”
Nowadays, Lacouette mixes stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminum, nickel and wood in her designs, treating the metals with chemicals to create patinas, or painting faux finishes before assembling each piece.
“There’s a clock in every room in my house,” says the clockmaker. “I have a big walk-in closet, and I even have a clock in there. But I don’t wear a watch,” she adds, with a laugh. “I don’t want to think about time that much.”
Lacouette’s wall clocks are available through galleries nationwide. She also accepts commissions for free-standing or special designs. Call 845-255-3762 or check www.leonietime.com for more information.