Lynn Chase Inspires Dinner Conversations and Conservation
A display of porcelain from Lynn Chase Designs at TK Home and Garden.
By Lisa Green
For Lynn Chase, it’s all about the animals. She’s a conservationist to the core. Even when you try to get the self-taught artist and product designer to talk about Lynn Chase Designs, her porcelain tableware and home goods, she’ll bring the conversation back to the animals.
In fact, a meeting with her at TK Home and Garden in Hudson needed to be on a Monday afternoon; she was making her way back to New York from her Southfield home, but attending to her three horses in the morning came first. Two Jack Russell terriers (both rescues) preceded her entrance into the store. (The three greyhounds, barn cat and sand hill cranes stay at the farm in the Berkshires.) And if it weren’t for the animals in a global sense, there probably wouldn’t be a Lynn Chase Designs, because she does it for them.
“It” is her multiple lines of animal-themed tabletop and home accessories that illuminate her superb artistry and shine a light on the Lynn Chase Wildlife Foundation, which she established along with her first collection. Her fine porcelain Heritage lines, which include the 24-karat gold-rimmed Winter Game Birds and black-grounded Jaguar Jungle, are perennial best sellers. Her newest lines, the yellow and French blue Butterfly Bamboo and African Inspirations (interpreted as Chinese and French toile) and other rather dazzling collections are made in melamine (certainly not your grandmother’s, but more practical for outdoor dining). All are dishwasher safe.
The Harmony Bowl [shown below] is one of Chases’ own favorites. A replica of a bowl from the Chinese Han Dynasty, it’s 15 inches in diameter and hand made in Portugal. Along with design elements used in early 18th-century European porcelain, it depicts species from the seven continents and is a stunning homage to the endangered treasures of the earth. There are also serving trays, candles and other coordinating pieces. Her Monkey Magic Cache Pot is currently one of the “rare and newsworthy items” in The New York Times Store.
In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing the Rhode Island School of Design rejected Chase’s application when she was college bound. “They told me I’d never have a career in the arts,” she says. So, after two years at a junior college and the completion of her studies at the New York School of Interior Design, she took a trip to Mozambique, where she realized how quickly the game was disappearing. She sketched her way through Africa and South America, accumulating a vast knowledge of biodiversity, endangered species and conservation projects. She began exhibiting her animal illustrations throughout the United States and Europe.
“I realized that one painting goes into one home,” she says. “I thought, how can I transfer the images onto a broader canvas so that more people see them, and become aware of the need for animal conservation?”
First, she designed collector plates and figurines for Lenox China. In 1988, after the October crash of ’87, she started her own company. Through changes in management, distributors and manufacturers, and a long-debilitating fall off a horse, Chase has designed more than 200 products, manufactured by porcelain makers in Italy, Portugal, Japan and Thailand. Soon to launch are room screens bearing giclee images from her paintings.
Last year, both the company and the Lynn Chase Wildlife Foundation turned 25 — this, after Lynn was told early on that no one would “eat off animals” or black plates. Chase has proven the naysayers wrong — and well enough to be able to carry out her mission to stem habitat loss. The fund has contributed well over $150,000 to organizations dedicated to endangered species, such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Kenya (she serves on its board) and The Wild Dolphin Project in the Bahamas, among others.
“What’s most important is that all the monies go to the field. There are no administrative costs in the Foundation, as I personally fund all incidentals — things like the tax returns and printing materials,” she says.
The girl who used to sneak animals (including snakes and a pigeon, oh my) into her bedroom now has her own menagerie at the farm in Southfield (“we call it Money Pit Farm”), where she weekends with her husband Richard Flintoft. They might go out for dinner to Old Inn on the Green or Pastorale, but most of their time is spent with the animals — the ones walking around the property, or the ones she creates, first, on paper.
Where To Buy
Lynn Chase Designs are sold at more than 400 high-end retailers (including TK Home and Garden, Passports in Salisbury and Oliphant Design in Litchfield). The company’s warehouse is in New Marlborough. Last Columbus Day Weekend, they held a warehouse sale, and there are plans to make it an annual event.