CURATE // Maker Story: Brit McDaniel of Paper & Clay

Brit McDaniel of Paper & Clay recently made her Design*Sponge debut, and the piece made its way around the Son of a Sailor studio. She told her story beautifully and honestly, with a vulnerability that we can all relate to. She also just happens to be a good friend, an amazing ceramicist and a recent SOS collaborator. Read her interview below to learn more about a truly talented, lovely gal. Thanks for chatting with us, Brit!

Tell us a little about yourself, your business and how Paper & Clay came to be.

Paper & Clay was born from a place of desperation and, frankly, sadness. I didn’t know who I was or what I was supposed to be. I kept searching in all kinds of places, but as soon as I dove back into my ceramic work I knew something was different. I just made the decision that I was going to make it happen - and that’s where I am now! Paper & Clay will be (officially) one year old in June, and though it is always challenging, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.  I get to work for myself and make a living as an artist. It’s a very satisfying experience. Though I should mention, it wouldn’t be possible without the constant support from my other half, Barry, who is so patient and encouraging and loving (and a brilliant writer!).

How did you choose ceramics as your medium?

I don’t think I consciously chose it when I was in school. I just fell in love with my first ceramics class, and became kind of addicted to it. It’s a strange medium in a lot of ways. There is always an element of inconsistency, and it requires so much patience and flexibility. I suppose I like the challenge of it. One of the most interesting aspects of ceramics is that it forces you to accept loss and failure quickly and to move on from it. When I lose a piece I’ve been working on, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. I just have to immediately move on and learn from my mistakes. It’s liberating in a way. But when you do get it right, it’s magical. Every time. I love it.

What inspires your design process? 

First and foremost, the relationship between form and function. I want my work to be beautiful, but also very usable. I’m very influenced by Scandinavian design, and look to a lot of American Mid-Century designers as well. Essentially, I try to create the pieces that I want to have and use in my own home, and it’s so rewarding when someone else wants my work in their house too!

What other mediums inspire you outside of ceramics? (e.g. other makers, books, being outside, music, etc)

Oh, too many to list! Everything can be an inspiration of some kind. Lately I’ve been looking at a lot of textiles, and finding design inspiration there. I’ve also been reading A LOT about other creative professionals and their routine and process. I always look to photography, drawing, and painting for pattern inspiration, but really I try to keep my mind open at all times. You can find a way to relate all of your experiences to your work in some way or another.

What’s next on your plate? 

Right now, I’m working on growing production for Paper & Clay. It’s pretty scary. I’m trying to find ways to make more work without sacrificing any quality or the handmade element. I’m hoping to have something worked out by early Summer.  

On the creative side of things, I’m working on a dinnerware line and some limited edition projects. The more involved projects are my favorite, and I think the most interesting. Experimenting with different processes and designs is so rewarding. It keeps things fresh, and it keeps me loving my work.

Complete these sentences…

I can’t get my day started without..

Coffee. I know it’s a lame answer. I’m seriously caffeine dependent these days. 

Last spontaneous purchase I made…

I just splurged on some lovely cropped jeans from Madewell. Sometimes you just gotta treat yo self.

Song I want to hear on the dance floor…

Haha. Hahahahaha. You won’t ever catch me on the dance floor. I have, unfortunately, absolutely no dance skills. I prefer to cut loose in a far more leisurely fashion. I’ll just be over here sipping on a handmade cocktail.


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