After living in Austin for six years, Brit McDaniel moved back to Memphis and brought with her some of the “Buy Local” ethos that pervades the Texas mecca of culture.
She has opened a new business here – Paper & Clay, an outlet for ceramics she makes and sells – and she sees a plethora of positives about both the small-business community in Memphis and about starting a new venture here.
McDaniel finished a Kickstarter campaign back in May to raise money to buy equipment she needed, and she found a studio space in Cooper-Young. She’s in the studio every day, either making ceramics or performing some other function associated with her business like accounting or marketing.
She’s also selling her work through the online outlet Etsy, and in stores beyond Memphis, in places like Michigan, Washington state and Oxford, Miss.
“I think that starting a business in Memphis right now is really a beautiful thing, because it’s affordable and it’s accessible,” McDaniel said. “It’s easy to start something new here, and I think that there are several small businesses that are really pushing for that sort of environment here.
“I’m able to have a home and a studio here for less than what I would pay just for my home in Austin. It makes it much more doable. Part of the reason I did the Kickstarter is I didn’t want to start out my business in debt. I’ve really been trying to put everything I make back into the business.”
That includes selectively introducing the community to her work through what might be considered non-traditional channels. One such example is through pop-up events.
Hoot-Louise has been hosting pop-up shops showcasing local artists and creative businesses. One such recent pop-up featured McDaniel’s work, which Hoot-Louise will start carrying soon.
McDaniel’s work also can be found in the store at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and at a shop called Amelia in Oxford. Her Etsy site, www.paperandclaystudio.etsy.com, offers an online source, as well.
“Here in town, a lot of people have contacted me through email to come look at my work, and I also try and schedule things like pop-ups,” McDaniel said. “At the same time, I want to try and be really selective about where I sell my work.”
She describes her work as modern functional ceramics. Much of it is utilitarian – things like cups, bowls and the like. Each piece is hand-thrown, glazed and fired.
“I do occasionally go off on a whim just for fun, for a break,” she said. “But the idea is to create a handmade line of pottery for people who really appreciate that clean, simple, Scandinavian-inspired aesthetic.”
The business was born as a result of some “soul-searching” she did in 2012. She studied ceramics in school and loved it but didn’t think at first she could turn it into a career. At some point, she changed her mind and decided to give it a try.
She’s already thinking about a physical retail presence, and she plans to be part of the events surrounding Art Trolley Tour at the end of the month.
“I’m trying to be active and get out and about in Memphis,” she said.