Zounds Good

Peirce Clayton’s fascination with speakers began in childhood when the young entrepreneur built his own units out of wood, put them in a wagon, and proudly showed them to friends. As the sole owner of ZAKO Audio, Clayton continues to design speakers, although today’s versions are state-of-the-art audio components. Clayton has created spherical ceramic speakers that do not absorb sound waves and are designed to reproduce music exactly as it was recorded. The dense, 1/2-inch-thick walled cabinets are manufactured using molds created by Clayton. As a student at the University of Minnesota, Clayton studied engineering, art, architecture, and ceramics and learned the fine art of mold making. His mastery of mold making has resulted in the publication of his textbook, The Clay Lover’s Guide to Making Molds (Random House, 1998).

“I make all the molds for my cabinets and subcontract the manufacturing to a ceramic factory,” he says. “The electronics are manufactured outside the state and assembled in New Mexico.”

It took two years of research and development for Clayton to come up with the ZM99 speaker, ZAKO Audio’s sole product. He initially made prototypes in the shape of a box, a snowman, and an egg before settling on the spherical design. They weigh 40 pounds per pair, sell for $1,680, and come with a five-year parts and labor warranty. Currently, they’re available in glaze black or jade green.

“The ZM99’s were featured as props in an interior shot in the most recent Charlie’s Angels movie,” Clayton says. “You can see them right before the angels’ trailer gets blown up.”

Clayton is selling the speakers through music distributors as well as through direct sales. He’s still in the process of figuring out his markets, but reports that his three-year-old business is beginning to take off.

ZAKO Audio, Peirce Clayton, 505-670-1745, Santa Fe, NM, www.zako.com.

Forge Follows Function

Rachel Miller is a craftswoman who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. After receiving her bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Miller volunteered to work at a New York museum as a blacksmith where coal was used as a source of fuel. Later she became a professional welder and worked in the aerospace industry. Miller founded Spirit Forge, a company that makes ironwork products for the home, as a way to merge her artistic sensibilities with her love of creating functional objects.

All the candleholders, bath accessories, custom hardware, fireplace screens, balcony grills, railings, and tables produced in Miller’s modest Taos studio are hand-forged using traditional blacksmithing techniques. A clear, rust-resistant lacquer—or paint, at the customer’s request—ensures the pieces require very little maintenance and stay beautiful for years.

A line of nature-inspired mirror frames is Miller’s latest creation. Weighing in at approximately 30 pounds, these frames often feature floral images and retail for $500. While Miller has a plethora of designs in her head, she relishes the experience of working one-on-one with clients to make sure that her pieces fit nicely with existing home design patterns.

A selection of Miller’s one-of-a-kind ironwork pieces can be seen at Shidoni Arts in Tesuque, New Mexico. Miller frequently makes appointments to meet with clients at their homes to help select the tables and home accessories that best complement their present or new decor.

Spirit Forge, Owner: Rachel Miller, 505-751-1028, Taos, NM, www.wesstartisans.com.

Knead Custom Tiles?

Textile designs have been an important inspiration for Jill Rounds’ line of handmade ceramic pieces for the home. Rounds, a rural Wisconsin native who grew up around natural images that continue to influence her current work, designed her own line of clothing in Hawaii and Santa Fe before switching artistic energies to working with clay in 1995. Her Taos studio is producing a line of home and bath accessories and custom ceramic tiles.

“I spent two to three years testing the clay and different glazes before I found the formulas that work best for me,” she says. “I’ve made sure that my work is very durable and can withstand use indoors or outdoors.”

Natural motifs decorate soap dishes, tissue box covers, and spiral trivets. Lately, most of her business has come from requests for custom tile work. She begins by hand carving the original tile and fabricating plaster molds for duplication purposes. The neutral-colored ceramic tiles with floral and antique designs work well with stone and come in two-, three-, and six-inch squares. Clients can order small areas of decorative tile for a kitchen or an entire bathroom. Rounds works with clients personally and through showrooms that represent her work around the country, including Milestone, Inc. in Santa Fe.

“My passion for clay is great,” she says. “I delight in knowing that I could devote the rest of my life to it and continue to find infinite ways to express my ideas.”

The Jill Rounds Studio Collection, 1337 Gusdorf Rd., Taos, NM 87571. 505-737-9750, www.wesstartisans.com.

Water Works

The precision machining industry has used waterjet technology for more than 20 years, but recent refinements in technology software have made this system a perfect tool for Linda Miller’s custom tile business, Dream Weaver Designs. Miller uses this computer–aided technology to precisely cut ceramic, marble, granite, and porcelain tile into designs ranging from red chiles and bamboo to mountain scenes and abstract patterns that adorn bathroom floors and shower stalls.

Miller began teaching herself to use the equipment nearly three years ago and spent an entire year experimenting with a variety of designs. Since designs are customer driven, most of her work is one-of-a-kind commissions. Clients provide Miller with the appropriate materials, exclusive of any metallic accents that may be incorporated into the tiles. Tiles are never painted or etched.

“The tiles appear to be one unit, but they’re really many different small pieces of tile put together,” she says. “Some tile fragments can be as tiny as a fingernail.

A 48-inch-diameter tile design for an entryway may have 150 pieces in it.”

Depending on design demands, tiles can be created and ready for installation in as little as three days or as long as three months.

“My work is all about creating personal touches within a home,” Miller says. “I collaborate with home builders, architects, and interior designers and work directly with homeowners.”

Dream Weaver Designs, 4401 Anaheim NE Suite 104, Albuquerque, NM 87113, 505-858-1701.

It took two years of research and development for Pierce Clayton to come up with the ZM99 speaker, ZAKO Audio’s sole product.