There is no stopping my love of ceramics. Hand thrown mugs, glazed in earthy hues, paint splattered, wabi sabi in form. Daily I pin beautiful items to my Home board, wishing my kitchen shelves contained them. Wanting to drink my morning coffee from such beauties. Recently I discovered the work of Brit McDaniel. Her hand thrown Copenhagen mug had me swooning. The line of the handle so perfectly unique, I want one! I had to find out more, I hope you enjoy a little interview she has given us…
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?
My name is Brit McDaniel, and I am a ceramic artist living and working in Memphis, Tennessee. I started my company, Paper & Clay, a little over a year ago, and in August of 2013 I was able to transition to full-time work with my little business. My focus is bringing a modern aesthetic to the tradition of handmade functional wares. All of my work is handmade from start to finish, by me and only me. I really enjoy the process– starting with a lump of clay, and ending with something useful and pretty. I believe that form and function are natural bedfellows, and keep this in mind with my work. My pieces are made to be used, and to hopefully be a happy little part of your everyday experience.
Apart from your work what else do you like doing?
I LOVE baking. Pie, oh how I love to make a beautiful pie. And eating what I bake. Which reminds me, I also love (Bikram) yoga, but need to find more time for my practice. My jeans (and my brain) would thank me. I think many makers share this sentiment, but honestly I just love making things. Pottery, food, photographs, notes, sketches, a mess, anything. I always need to be creating something. I also really love to travel. New places and experiences are so inspirational because they give the viewer a fresh perspective. I want to always be looking at my work differently, making improvements, and most importantly, growing.
What is your favourite item in your shop and why?
Oh, it’s so hard to choose a favorite. I like each of my designs for different reasons. My mugs are a labor of love. They are so involved, and perhaps because I spend so much time with each one, I fall in love a little bit with each of them. I like noticing their little distinctions, subtle differences in shape and size. But mostly I love them mugs because they are incredibly functional. They are durable and comfortable to hold. The matte glaze is smooth to the touch, and the lines are clean and simple. The old advice is, “write what you know”. I think “write what you’d want to read” is the better advice, and this translates perfectly to my work. I make the pieces that I want to have and use in my own home.
Where does your inspiration come from?
From so many different and unexpected places. From classic design, from beautiful photographs, from landscapes, from a place of necessity. I’m inspired by Danish design, and by many classics of the Mid-Century era. My wonderful partner, Barry, has an incredible eye for design, and has turned me on to many of my favorites (Eva Zeisel, to name just one). There’s also a secondary kind of inspiration, one that speaks to the business side of my work, and that comes from watching other people succeed on nothing more than talent and very hard work. For me, that’s the ultimate realization of happiness. Building something from nothing, and to make that something into the means by which you build your life and provide for yourself– that is a beautiful thing.
Describe your studio/workspace?
It’s very small! My studio is a very dusty and sometimes very messy space, with the most amazing natural light. There are shelves everywhere which house my work in it’s various stages of completion. It’s always warm, and there is always music playing in the background. I almost always have a cup of coffee or tea by my side.
What is a typical work day for you?
My studio days always start with coffee at home. I answer emails, check on new orders, and take care of other business tasks. My studio is pretty close to home, about a two mile drive. I always start with checking on work from the day before. Making sure things are drying properly, trimming and attaching handles to coffee mugs and rotating dry work into the kiln, to make room on the shelves for new pieces. I try to spend about 9 hours at the studio. I break it up into 4 hours of work, an hour for lunch and errands, and 4 more hours of work. Somedays, if I’m just not feeling it, I’ll work a few hours on other projects like cleaning and organizing my space. Other days, and especially if I’m approaching a deadline, my studio work can stretch into 12 hours or more. This can be exhausting at times, but deep down I really love pushing myself to work harder. Often it’s during these extra long days that I find ways to work better and smarter.
Please tell us about your current loves…
I’m totally captivated by the beautiful photo books available through Artifact Uprising. Their templates sync with your Instagram library, and you can create the most wonderful soft paper photo albums of your own images. I always love having physical prints of my images, and this is the perfect way to keep them organized. Check out their site here.
I follow and admire so many artists, photographers, designers etc., and I’m always exploring new eye candy. Right now I am loving the work of Jared Small, a local painter here in Memphis. He paints these stunningly perfect portraits of mundane old houses from our very imperfect city. He captures their eeriness and their decay so beautifully. He is entirely self-taught, and an incredibly kind person. You can see more of his work here.
We love love love making handcrafted cocktails at home. We are big fans of Gin and Whiskey, and love experimenting with different recipes and new ingredients. One of our favorite finds is a small batch tonic called Jack Rudy. It is THE BEST. Seriously. More on JR here
I am a lover of music of all kinds. From Joni Mitchell to Bon Iver to Maclemore. I can’t get enough. Lately though, I’ve been soaking up music with an American Bluegrass influence. I love Gillian Welch and First Aid Kit, both of which are played in my studio daily.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love making something that didn’t previously exist. I’m get to be the mother of all these little designs making their way into people’s lives across the world. There’s something really powerful about that.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Probably a my lovely handmade Walnut Rolling Pin from Board and Bread. It is so perfectly made, and combines my love of making, baking, and of the person who gave it to me.
If you were stranded in the wilds what item would you want with you to survive?
A furry companion of some sort. And pie.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would love to be doing exactly what I’m doing now, only better. I have a happy little home with a witty and wonderful writer, a sweet little dog, and the only cat I’ve ever loved. If I can continue my life with those three, and keep making my living as a maker, I’ll be one happy little lady.
Where can we buy your work?
My Etsy store: Paper & Clay Studio
What a beautiful interview from an amazing talent. You love her work right? Brit has kindly offered an amazing giveaway to one lucky Littlegreenshed reader.
A $30 gift voucher to be used in her store. The voucher doesn’t include postage unfortunately. Please enter the rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway ends Midnight Saturday 1st February. Giveaway is open to worldwide entrants. Good luck!