Meet Your Maker Monday: Carole Smith of McCheek's Academy

Carole Smith is the mastermind behind McCheek's Academy, where she creates her ceramic works. Visitors to Antidote and Black Hole in Houston have seen her handiwork in the details in those coffee houses. Carole opens her studio to the public every week, with classes for children and adults so that they can make ceramics of their own.

All photos by Alex Barber

All photos by Alex Barber

What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?

Carole Smith, McCheek's Academy, Website: mccheeksacademy.com, Facebook: McCheek's Academy, Etsy: McCheek's Mayhem, Twitter: McCheeksMayhem, Instagram: @mccheek

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What do you make? How do you make it?

I make plates, cups, mugs, planters, wall art and tiles. All from clay. Using different ceramic processes and techniques.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

Each day is different, but typically I'll check emails first thing. Walk down the path to the studio (next door to my house) and either, get ready for a class I'm teaching to kids or adults or roll out clay, cast some pieces in my moulds, unload and pack the kiln, glaze mine and others work, take some photos of students work and post to Facebook. Clean and organise the studio.

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Why did you decide to start your own business and why Houston?

I decided I wanted to become a teacher and as I was already making my own ceramics I tried to get into HISD as an art teacher and it proved much harder than I’d thought  to get my qualifications (degree and postgraduate in ceramics) from the UK translated into American qualifications - so I decided I should start teaching from my studio and see how I enjoyed it. I was a restaurant manager at the time and I needed to have a change and really wanted to have a job that finally had something to do with my previous training in ceramics.

It turns out that I love teaching and am so glad I'm doing my own thing and being my own boss.

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I moved to Houston in 2002 to live with my American husband, so that's why I'm here! I've grown to really like it. We were lucky to find a large warehouse space in the Heights a few years ago which we live in and was also large enough for both of us to have studios in.

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What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?

I'm inspired by people and their stories, I'm inspired by my past - like afternoon tea with my granny in Scotland. I'm also inspired by the world I live in now - like going out to my garden and looking up into a tree and finding the perfect leaf colour and shape against the blue sky, or finding some vintage moulds to cast.

My work is mostly guided by the need to make things.

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What's next for McCheek's Academy?

We are building a more ergonomic studio which we hope to have open at the beginning of 2014. It will be a slightly larger space and have space for larger classes. I want to buy a bigger kiln soon as the one I have is getting too small for the volume of ceramics that go through it each week.

I'd like to make some time to make some new work for McCheek's Mayhem in the next few months and hope to get another bathroom tile commission to work on in 2014.

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What do you want people to know about your work?

Each piece of my work has gone through a process to make it, from casting or rolling out the clay, to finishing, drying, firing and glazing. I like the ceramic process and each time I open the kiln I still get a rush of excitement to see how things have turned out.

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Copyright Houston Makerspace, LLC 2013.  Background images by Marisa Brodie and Alex Barber.