Ceramics Monthly: How and when did you come up with the idea for your shop, Ceramic Concept, which opened this past fall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?
Stefani Threet: Ceramic Concept is a ceramics-centered storefront that showcases the works of artists of color, women, and local artists. The idea for the space is a childhood dream that was actualized while stranded in Oaxaca, Mexico, during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ceramic Concept space is a mixed collection of my personal wares, the works of my ceramic-artist friends, and pieces from potters in my social-media network. There are over 50 artists currently represented in the store. More than 40% of them are artists of color.
While studying ceramics at Alfred University, during a work exchange at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and when working as a gallery assistant at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia, I found a lack of representation that has been a constant throughout my career. When I started Threet Ceramics, my line of handmade pottery, I knew I also wanted to find and promote other artists who looked like me. As 2020 brought the conversation about systemic racism in the US center stage, I recognized that there was never going to be a better time to create a space that honors artists of color.
Mid pandemic seemed the most unlikely time to start a handmade business, but it turned out to be exactly what the community needed. I created a plan to crowdfund the startup capital. Along the way, so much love and support has been given to this project by neighbors, friends, and complete strangers.
In launching the store, I started with a week-long grand opening instead of a big celebratory party. I mean, how does one celebrate a grand opening during a pandemic? I created a shop-by-appointment model and left opportunities for walk-ins should there be less than 6 people in the store. It worked so well during opening week that I adopted it as a model for my first month in business.
CM: What is the mission for the business?
ST: The mission of Ceramic Concept is to be a place that encourages the growth and advancement of marginalized populations in clay such as artists of color and women. A place that educates buyers about ceramic techniques and the work that goes into creating each piece. The hope is to elevate people’s knowledge of the medium with each purchase. Post pandemic we plan to be a space for community gatherings, small workshops, and artist demonstrations.
Ceramic Concept is right in the heart of West Philadelphia in the community where I was born and raised. Growing up as an African American teen, I aspired to become a ceramic artist after discovering an absolute love for clay while taking my first ceramics class at St. Joseph´s University at the age of 15. Pottery was seen by many in my community as a hobby and I set out to change that mindset. I opened Ceramic Concept in the heart of the black community, 6–7 blocks from my childhood home, to make the medium more accessible and relatable to people of color and to show adults and children that ceramics could be a rewarding and enriching career path.