Artist Lorien Stern on How She Found the Perfect Hypoallergenic Pets · The Wildest

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Artist Lorien Stern on Finding the Perfect Hypoallergenic Pets (Ducks Included)

She couldnt let allergies get in the way of her love of animals.

by Kari Paul
November 28, 2023
Lorien Stern with her dog on a yellow couch
Photo: Spencer Dennis

When The Wildest catches up with Lorien Stern, she is seated in her colorful studio, surrounded by an array of art supplies. The artist moved into her Mojave desert abode a few years ago, and has since worked with her partner on making it a quirky and colorful haven for their family — which includes ducks, a cat, and a dog. 

Stern creates colorful art installations and ceramics, as well as home products and clothing (totes, shirts, and rugs), all sold on her website. Her work is whimsical, fun, and peppered with a wide range of animal subjects, from sharks, ladybugs, and frogs to cats and dogs. 

Lorien Stern with her dog on a yellow couch
Photo: Spencer Dennis

“Animals are our biggest inspiration,” she says of herself and her partner, Dave McPeters, a fellow artist. “They color everything we do.” 

Stern has always been an animal lover, growing up with a gaggle of cats and dogs. But she didn’t become a pet parent herself until she took in a baby duck. The Wildest talked to Stern about being a duck mom, hypoallergenic pets, and how she finds inspiration for her artwork in animals. 

Lorien Stern with her dog and cat on a rug
Photo: Spencer Dennis

Can you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your art practice?

I’m a full-time artist, and I run a small art brand. I primarily make ceramics and draw and paint as well. Art has always been the only thing I’ve ever been interested in since I was little. I was really shy growing up, so I loved keeping busy drawing during school breaks or in social situations. Now, I live and work at a little ranch in the Mojave Desert.

Can you give us a head count of how many pets you have on your property?

I have two ducks named Slim and Beaker; I used to have three, but the third one, Ice Cream, passed away about two years ago. We have a cat named Bob and a dog named Curly. And we have a tortoise named Myrtle, who is probably 25 now.

Lorien Stern with her cat
Photo: Spencer Dennis

How did you get Myrtle? Have you had her her whole life?

She belonged to a family friend that passed away. We got her, I think, five years ago.

How does one get a duck?

They were just selling them at our local hardware store, and they were so cute. We didn’t have any pets at the time; we went out of town a lot, but they seemed like a really easy and low-maintenance pet. So we pulled the trigger and adopted Beaker.

Lorien Stern with her dog; Lorien Stern's cat on a table
Photo: Spencer Dennis

So, your first pet was a duck? 

Our first pet out here was a duck 10 years ago. We were obsessed with her, she grew up inside and she would follow me everywhere. I couldn’t leave her alone for a minute or she would cry. At night, she would sleep next to our bed, and we’d sleep with our arms over the bed so she could see [us] and wouldn’t feel alone. If she couldn’t see the arm, she’d start crying. She also associated us with our shoes because she is so small, so we would set the shoes next to her, and she would snuggle with them. Ducks are just the sweetest pets. 

Could you tell me a little bit more about where you live, what is the setup like? 

I’m out in a little desert town — my family acquired this property in 1990 — they are in construction and are obsessed with good deals. So, they had kind of turned this piece of land into a junkyard of sorts over the last 30 years. When I was living in LA, they said we could move out onto the property. So, we went for it, and got a little trailer to fix up. It was a cool way to be able to take a risk and, like, fully dive into having an art practice without worrying about paying overhead. 

Lorien Stern with her dog and duck
Photo: Spencer Dennis

And what about the dog and the cat? How did you go from being duck parents to growing your little family?

We didn’t think we’d get a dog or a cat for a long time, because we go out of town so much. During COVID we realized we really wanted to get a cat, but my partner, Dave, is really allergic. I tried to get a cat before, and he could not come over. He would be dying, so I ended up having to give it away to a good home. 

He’s still quite allergic, but we found out some cats can be hypoallergenic. After doing research we found a place online that said its cats had a high success rate for that, so we met up with this guy, and he handed over the cat. When we brought him home, he was really shy at first, but now he’s totally warmed up to us. We’re obsessed with him — he’s our whole life, and he’s the sweetest boy. His name is Bob. 

A little later on, it was still the pandemic, and we decided we needed a dog, too. We had to look into hypoallergenic breeds again, so annoyingly, I had to go to a breeder, and I didn’t adopt. He’s a little Golden Doodle named Curly, and he is such a sweet boy. He and Bob get along really well. They wrestle every night like siblings, it’s very sweet. 

Lorien Stern with her dog; Lorien Stern with her duck
Photo: Spencer Dennis

Do your current ducks live inside?

They lived in the house for like a month until they got to their full size, then we put them in the coop we built next to the house. That is mostly because they poop constantly, and it’s hard to clean up. [Before we got the cat and dog} we would bring them in for about ten minutes at the time just for fun. 

Do Bob and Curly get along with the ducks?

When we first got Bob, we would bring the ducks inside every once in a while to hang out. But one time we brought them in and Bob started stalking them for a second, and I said, “OK, I’m done, we are never doing that again.” Now, they hang out with a fence between them. I also would never want to risk the chance of Curly lunging at them. I doubt he would ever bite them, but if he wanted to play with them, I wouldn’t want to stress out the ducks. 

Lorien Stern outside with her dog
Photo: Spencer Dennis

How do you think having your pets around has affected your art? I’ve noticed some duck themes.

Animals are my biggest influence. I’ve always really connected with animals — in some ways more than people. When my dad passed away, I immediately adopted seven cats, and they were just my entire world. I’d get home from school and hang out with my cats until bedtime. They were a huge source of comfort for me. It is really therapeutic to just have that bond — someone who is always with you and comforting you and never judges you. I love animals; it feels unreal to get to have a furry friend who lives with you all the time. 

Lorien Stern outside with her dog; Lorien Stern walking with her dog
Photo: Spencer Dennis

Do you have any advice for people who are interested in adopting a duck?

Just make sure that you’re able to have a pond with clean water. They are such good pets. You may not expect it, but they’re so sweet and affectionate; they go on walks with you. And they pay their rent in eggs. 

Kari Paul holding two kittens

Kari Paul

Kari Paul is a writer whose work has been published in the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine. She has had an endless march of more than 20 foster kittens, cats, and dogs over the last few years and always cries when they leave. 

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