Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional Q&A series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.

Who: Kendall Davis, owner of Kendall Davis Clay, a ceramic studio in Fort Worth.

Where: 305 W. Daggett Ave., Fort Worth  76104

Contact: https://kendalldavisclay.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kendall_davis_clay/

Phone: 214-394-1653

Year founded: 2018

What: A studio and retail store selling handmade ceramics.

Fort Worth Report spoke with Kendall Davis about the business. This interview has been edited for content, length, grammar and clarity.

Bob Francis: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Kendall Davis: My parents were born in Fort Worth, my grandparents were born in Fort Worth. My grandparents used to run Panther Hall. So I’m an eighth-generation Texan. We had an original land grant in Texas. I’m about as Fort Worth and Texan as you can get. 

My parents, my grandparents in the ’70s, moved to Granbury, so I graduated from Granbury High School. Then I went to SMU, studied art, went on and got a master’s in Washington, D.C. I got out of Texas, did different residencies, but I came back to Texas, and lived in Dallas, and then moved back to Fort Worth, probably 18 years ago. I taught art, raised a family, and turned 50, and I was like, no more, ‘I’ve got to start doing my own thing.’ So I quit teaching art, and started making ceramics again. 

Francis: So you began selling them? 

Davis: I started going to the Clearfork Farmers Market to sell my ceramics. I kept selling out, so I decided to get a small store front on Magnolia Avenue. Every couple years I would upgrade to a larger space because demand has continued.

CAPTION: Ceramics from Kendall Davis Clay sit on a table. (Courtesy photo | Kendall Davis Clay, photo by Zach Lopez)

I had a tiny space in the same building as Cat City Grill and I would make ceramics in the window there. Again, the business started to grow and grow, so I got a bigger space, and the pandemic hit. And I asked to stay there for about a year during the pandemic. Then, because we live in Fairmont, in a duplex, I operated there. My business just kept growing during the pandemic. Then a year and a half ago I moved to my current location, which is right beside The Holly on Daggett.

I have my kiln there. I have artists that work for me because I’ve taught art for the longest time. I really like kids, so now I just hire people that’ve graduated from UNT and they help me and we offer lessons, workshops.

Francis: How did you find running a business once you opened? 

Davis: I’ve always been a maker, always been an artist. My mom owned a retail shop, and early on in my days I was a retail manager. Most artists don’t open a store. This is not the traditional model for a ceramic artist. But, because my mom had had a store and I’d been a manager, I combined the elements.

Francis: Tell us about your work. 

Davis: Most of the time it’s going to be functional work. I think if you eat off something nice or something that’s handmade, you have a tendency to kind of linger over your food, have a nice discussion, maybe you would slow down, and you know how slow living is important these days. Just the philosophy of slowing down and noticing those, enjoying the moment…

But how does my work look? It’s understated. It’s simple, but not simple. So really subtle details are important. There’s an awareness of the hand, that they’re handmade. There are little blemishes, little marks of the hand when I glaze it, a lot of times my finger marks are still evident. My pieces are about holding, as much as looking at, so it’s a piece to be touched.

So they’re, they’re very much about simplicity, but when I used to teach, I used to say if that piece kind of just begs to be looked at over, and over, and over, and you find a new story every time you look at it, like a white plate is a white plate, it may show off your food, but hopefully there’s a lot more nuances to the plate I make.

A lot of the accidents I keep, a lot of, if the glaze goes awry or the clay kind of does something to your hand.

Francis: What are your big sellers? 

Davis: The coffee mug is the bestseller, and that’s really pretty awesome, I think, to drink your morning coffee in something that’s handmade.

Francis: It’s obviously resonating with others if you’ve had to keep expanding.

Davis: Fort Worth has really embraced, or my little Southside, my little shop. I don’t know if I’m getting Westover necessarily coming over to my store, but Southside seems to be embracing what I’m making.

Francis: Anything you learned that you would tell somebody else who was starting a business?

Davis: Last summer I attended the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program in Dallas. It’s a 12-week program. That was a game-changer. That was an awesome program. Kari Seher at Melt Ice Cream and Robbie Werner, former owner of Stir Crazy Bakery, had been through the program and recommended it. 

Here I am, I went to art school. I have a master’s in art. They went over things that, even as a manager of a retail store I wasn’t familiar with. There’s some people in the program that had a master’s degree. It’s like, ‘Oh, this is better because you use your own store as a model.’ Starting out a business, I think you have a lot of guts to do it. It’s not for the faint of heart. What advice would I give? Go slowly? I think that’s good advice.

Francis: What do you think you learned from the Goldman Sachs program?

Davis: The biggest thing, it gave me confidence. When I started my business, talking about growing slowly, it was just out of pocket. We had it, I grew as slowly as I could earn, and put back into the business, and then what’s happened is I would get kids, or I mean young adults that graduated, got their masters or something in ceramics, and over the summer, last summer, they’d be available, but then they were going to go on in the fall. So summer’s a slow time of year. So what the best thing Goldman Sachs did is it gave me the confidence to go to the bank to get a line of credit so that I could make it in the summer, and pay for people to make in the summer, and then be ready for December. The business really made me look at the big picture, where I was kind of just living month-to-month beforehand.

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Bob FrancisBusiness Editor

Robert Francis is a Fort Worth native and journalist who has extensive experience covering business and technology locally, nationally and internationally. He is also a former president of the local Society...