In today’s 24/7 world, it’s easy to feel like a prisoner of time, constantly monitored by the blinking of the digital clock, one’s life consumed by the march of minutes. Leonie Lacouette makes clocks that ironically offer release: The smooth, steady movement of the two hands across the numberless face, a harmonious arrangement of geometries in copper and wood conjure up not the mad dash of life pegged to a schedule, but rather the slow, steady dance of the planet: time returned to its essence, which is the movement of Earth through space.
Lacouette makes her clocks in a workshop that she calls the “clock factory” in Gardiner. Aided by two helpers, she produces hundreds of clocks a year and sells her Modernist creations in galleries all over the US, including the Virgin Islands. Lacouette was recently written up in Copper in the Arts magazine; the article noted her participation in the annual American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, and named one of her prominent clients: PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill.
Lacouette originally was a ceramist, earning her degree from SUNY-New Paltz. She constructed her first clock when she needed a timepiece for her studio and ordered five clockworks. Deciding to make more clocks so that the remaining clockworks wouldn’t go to waste, she sold all four and decided that building clocks would be a way to make art and support herself – a hunch that more 20 years later is richly bearing fruit.
She began experimenting with other media and obtained her first copper from the PC boards in computers stocked at P & T Surplus, in Kingston. She now purchases the metal in sheets from the Dutchess Metal Supply Corporation. Lacouette also uses stainless steel, but copper is a favorite, for its warm earthtones and seemingly timeworn patina (she treats the metal in a chemical bath, and also paints the wooden surfaces of her clocks with a finish).
Lacouette does make a concession to practicality in some of her pieces, by attaching the numbers 12, 3, 6 and 9 to the faces. Many of the clocks also have pendulums, effectively transforming them into moving artworks. All of them, however, are silent. Lacouette is not a typical clockmaker in that she eschews complicated gears and other mechanical works, using batteries to power her clocks.
Locally, you can view her clocks at the Mark Gruber Gallery in New Paltz and the Sweetheart Gallery in Woodstock; Lacouette also participates in the Rhinebeck Craft Fair. Or check out her website at http://leonietime.com.