Gabriella K. Levy, the young entrepreneur behind custom lighting business immerLit, chats warmly from her studio about the artistic journey that led her to Boston to begin her career in professional sculpture.
“It’s small compared to what most people would expect,” she says of her studio, “but it gets the job done for now!”
Part of a warehouse in Cambridge, her studio is nestled among the eclectic workspaces of many other creative professionals, ranging from costume designers for the Slutcracker to a silkscreener and even a bicycle builder. And Levy makes the most of it, finding room enough room for her kiln, shelving filled to the brim with her porcelain art, a workbench that she built, and a selection of her lights hanging dramatically above. For Levy, the space represents boundless opportunity, and the freedom to pursue a lifelong passion.
“I’ve always been excited about clay,” Levy says. “Although I had no intention of making it my life.”
After graduating from Skidmore College, Levy took a few years off from sculpting as she struggled with figuring out what it was she wanted to do for a living. She worked in the restaurant business, eventually becoming the manager of the beloved Parish Cafe on Boylston Street. She enjoyed the lifestyle, but knew it wasn’t her calling, and in the back of her mind a vision lingered from the days she spent in a ceramic studio one summer in Saratoga Springs.
“I was playing with the porcelain and sitting next to this window, and all this natural light was coming in. And I’m looking at it like, this is incredible. This really fine china is naturally translucent,” Levy explains. “I don’t think there was a day that went by where I was working in the restaurant that I didn’t think about how cool that was, so when I decided to leave and pursue something else, this is what it was.”
With nothing but an idea in her head and a desire to create evocative, functional art, Levy knew that she was ready to leave her restaurant work and pursue what would become immerLit. After spending eight months living in a tiny studio apartment above an old professor’s ceramic center and spending countless hours developing clay combinations, shapes, sizes,and glazes, Levy moved back to Cambridge to start her business.
“To me it’s been incredibly successful so far,” she says. “I started out with just one type of fixture, and now I have these votives and these centerpieces, and they’re [for sale] at the Institute of Contemporary Art. There are just all these little things that add up to make me feel like it really is going somewhere.”
For Levy, the conscious decision to build her business in Boston was both an economical one and one related to Boston’s unique ability to foster the development of arts entrepreneurs in the early stages of their careers.
“I get this question a lot from people: ‘If you want to be in this sort of design world, why are you in Boston and not New York or LA?’ I’m still so much in the beginning stages of this. A lot of other things are cheaper here than if I was in Brooklyn competing with thousands of other emerging designers,” she says. “Boston isn’t the ‘arty-est’ city, so I found that I kind of had to carve out my own space.”
Young artists like Levy choosing Boston as the place where they’ll build their careers are just what this city needs to distance itself from its current reputation as an area unwelcoming to creatives and their work. Levy is optimistic about the changing nature of the arts scene in Boston, and is excited about the influx of businesses that actively cultivate a culture of buying and selling local. She is equally confident in her goals for immerLit: She intends to grow her collection to include floor lamps, sconces, and chandeliers, and wants to someday see her designs in hotel lobbies and gourmet restaurants, spaces where thousands of people gather.
“I just love the idea that I can enhance an experience or enhance someone’s general existence in a space,” Levy says. “That, to me, makes me so happy. So that’s what I hope for.”