We met up with ceramic designer Mary Carroll at the Coava roastery and learned more about her approach to handcrafted ceramics (and so much more). We're thrilled to announce our mug collaboration with Mary. Read on to learn more about her creative process and what lies ahead.
Hi Mary! Can you tell us where you are located and how you enjoyed your morning coffee today?
Hello! My studio is in North Portland in a very old dusty building. Pretty ideal for clay I suppose. Most mornings I’m pouring my home brewed (Ratio of course) coffee into a travel cup with collagen powder, some heavy cream and a tiny splash of maple syrup!
We’d love to learn more about your background in the coffee industry! How did you originally get into it, and what was your experience like?
Past Mary would have hated to hear what I put in my daily coffee! I was very into the coffee scene and mostly drank it black. I worked at a few cafes in Portland and got my feet wet in the coffee scene but my dream was to work at Heart Coffee Roasters. I was hired on at the roastery with the production crew and happily bagged beans and shipped orders. I loved learning what it was like behind the scenes at a roastery and was able to gain so much more coffee knowledge from the crew there. Eventually I became the wholesale coordinator assistant and got to work closely with Heart accounts. I loved it and I feel like having that background really influences my mug making to this day.
My husband managed a coffee shop here in Portland called Good Coffee at the same time as I was at Heart. It was fun having that mutual interest together!
How did you get started in the art/ceramics world? Have you always been a maker?
I was going to school for graphic design and decided to take an extra class just for fun! I took a handbuilding course first. Then the next semester I signed up for a wheel throwing course. Long story short, I quit school and put a pottery wheel into my studio apartment and decided to go for it!
When and how did you decide to turn your ceramics practice into a business?
I had made some mugs for Good Coffee and some small batches for a couple places in Portland at the beginning but I was working full time trying to make ceramics in any spare moment I had. I did that until eventually I was pregnant with my daughter and when I was about 8 months pregnant I decided to make a big change (naturally lol) and decided to take on larger wholesale accounts for the first time and not return to my 9-5 job after my maternity rest. It was the push I needed and I am so glad I went for it!
Your eye catching mugs have undoubtedly developed a following – how did you find your aesthetic, and how did it feel when you realized it resonated with so many others as well?
Honestly, it still shocks me that it resonates with so many. I still get nervous before each mug restock and it still blows me away when they sell out!
My aesthetic stemmed from a deep love of 70s vinyl artwork, logos from my dads t-shirts in the 80s, and a love of clean lines and plenty of color. I have always been drawn to extremely colorful artwork and textiles. Maybe Lisa Frank stuff from my childhood is to blame for that?
When you’re not making mugs, managing Instagram restock announcements, and shipping orders, how do you like to spend your time?
When I'm not making at my studio, my hands are busy making some other type of craft at my home. I typically have a few unfinished projects laying around the house in different corners at all times. Felting, painting, sewing, you name it. I also love to cook and bake. I am very interested in holistic health and have recently really dived into quantum Biology and how we can really thrive by aligning our circadian rhythm with the sun :)
What does 2024 have in store for Mary Carroll Ceramics?
I have been hosting mug painting workshops for the past 4 years or so but this coming year I want to expand that and teach a larger variety of clay workshops! Everything from building your own planter to kids painting classes.
I also hope to do a couple small batch special releases next year of some designs that have been hanging out in the back of my brain for a while!
Instagram: Mary Carroll Ceramics