Hey beautiful people!
Thanks for following along with the Women Who MAKE series. This marks month number five of the series, yay! It is also our first interview outside of Chicago. Hey, Kansas City! We will have more interviews coming this fall from around the country.
I’m so excited to bring you this month’s uber creative lady, Chentell Stiritz, owner of Convivial Production, Inc. I first learned about Chentell’s unique ceramics when I was assistant buyer for Neighborly Chicago. I fell head-over-heel’s for Chentell’s modern geometric patterns and neutral color palette. I bought more of her work than anyone else in the shop! I even put together a little DIY table setting post with her killer candle holders. I think you’ll LOVE her style too. Don’t miss this month’s giveaway for a gorgeous white ceramic planter from Convivial! Follow along on Instagram for all the details.
Photography for Centered By Design by: Carolina Mariana
Name: Chentell Stiritz
Current title/company name: Convivial Production, Inc.
Years in operation: 1
What is your first memory of making [art]?
My first memory of making art, coincidence or not, is actually in ceramics. I was in second grade and our project was to organize the placement of tiny mosaic tiles on a traditional terracotta planting pot. I remember getting really into it and when I finished the piece, I distinctly remember being sad because I was unsure how long it would be until I got to do a similar project.
How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?
I believe that my education served as a stepping-stone for starting my own business. It provided the time and space to be able to develop my work and ideas. Had I tried to start Convivial right out of high school the outcome would have been entirely different. My experience studying ceramics during the school year, teaching during the summers, and working as an intern for various organizations allowed for me to strengthen my technique, develop my aesthetics and explore concepts that I valued. Building a business really takes time, focus and a whole lot of commitment.
Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Convivial Productions. Best parts? Biggest challenge?
Ooo, the launch! Launching Convivial was a very natural progression. Approaching college graduation, I knew I would continue on with this art form as a career, and I was determined to do so in the immediate future. I had heard a lot of stories about artists finding their way eventually, however I was ready to go for it right then and there. So I began brainstorming. I began strategizing. I began to think practically about how I could turn my work into a successful career. I ran with my ideas as they came. I learned from them. I pin-pointed what was successful, what was not and then continued to press forward. Developing a momentum launched me from idea to idea, from opportunity to opportunity. A year out of school I had the first batch of goods developed and selling. It just made sense to give the work a name, to make it all official. I began as a DBA (doing business as) in April 2015 and then officially incorporated as a business in Missouri that following October. The most difficult part of launching my own business was constantly having to come up with a new game plan. It seemed like every day was different. Everyday had its challenges and its deadlines. It was my job to prioritize them and then hustle as hard as I could to meet them. I was constantly playing catch up. I was constantly moving from space to space to accommodate growth. I woke up at 6 am, started work at 6:10am and didn’t leave the studio till 11 or 12pm. The work was endless and exhausting, but honestly I love it.
What is the story behind your business name?
I needed a name that made sense for the company, one that had depth of meaning and that truly resonated with my medium and purpose. I originally came across the concept of conviviality in college. I was participating in a refugee photography project that culminated with a feast of celebration – the joining of many worlds to eat, drink and be happy together. I loved this. A year later when it came time to brand the company my fiancé reminded me of conviviality and we both knew it was the right fit. We are a production company that creates with the purpose of spurring on conviviality. We make the dinnerware needed to dine together and the surrounding décor to set the scene for gathering.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
Favorite part….Oh, there are so many parts to be favored! I love seeing a hundred pounds of clay fresh out of the bag, prepped and ready to go. I love having votives carved, cleaned and drying side by side. I love unloading the kiln, placing fresh inventory on our shelves and then taking it down, packing and sending it all away. I love looking at the shipping labels and seeing who and where items are shipped.
What inspires you and why?
What Inspires…I am a hostess. I have been and always will be. I feel most inspired, most comfortable and life-filled when I am preparing for guests and taking care of them within my home. This is the inspiration for Convivial. To make items that allow for me to host and serve my guests well and in turn to make items that do the same for others. My hope and mission is that the items we make will inspire hospitality and increase the already existent beauty of the act itself.
What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs/artists?
My advice to other entrepreneurs is to make with confidence and never stop asking yourself how things can be improved, how you can more successfully and beautifully perfect your ideas. A body of work and a business is developed over hours and hours of physical labor and intellectual debate. Don’t spend time comparing yourself to others. Keep your eyes forward and pursue ideas that are unique to you.
Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?
A lot of my design philosophy has been influenced by architectural and real estate principles. Simple. Timeless. Balanced. Repetitive.
Imagine Convivial Productions five years, how would you like to grow?
Five years from now I hope to have hired out a manager to oversee the production for Convivial. My hope here is to one, provide job opportunities, and to two, free up my time to further expand Convivial as a brand. I’ll leave it there for now, but I am excited about what is in the works. Stay tuned!
Do you have a most popular item?
Fruit bowl, fruit bowl, fruit bowl! Items will sell at different paces depending on the time of the year, however fruit bowls are pretty consistent. They are just an all around great gift and for any occasion!
What do you enjoy most about the creative community in Kansas City?
Kansas City has been a wonderful place for my work to grow into a company. There is an undeniable commitment amongst the people here to shop and support local and I am truly grateful for this!
Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?
Oh, of course! One of my favorite and highly recommended books is Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. So much of this book’s content has influenced the way I approach my work. In essence, within his book he argues that the space and items one surrounds themself with will in turn affect how they live and feel. One’s abode can be designed in a way that will remind them of the values they hope and strive to embody in life. I’d like to think I am providing items that do such, both in aesthetics and purpose. Simple. Timeless. Functional.
Kansas City Favorites:
- Favorite spot to get inspired: Walking! There are so many details to be found simply by walking down the street. I drive the same route to work everyday, but am always amazed by how different that route feels when I walk it instead.
- Favorite florist: I actually can’t deny that my favorite florist isn’t local and she is too good to not mention. Jackie Reisenauer of Munster Rose. If you have not heard of her work yet, it’s worth looking her up! Watching Jackie grow her company and designs has been a huge inspiration and example for me as I have been developing my own brand and business.
- Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture: Coveted Home! Coveted Home was my first client in Kansas City and they do a kick ass job keeping a fresh stock of home goods and furniture for the people of KC. Their style is so classy I can’t resist but call them a favorite.
- Favorite place for coffee: I am a Broadway Coffee Company girl all the way. Their shop is located about a mile from my studio and it’s a good day when I can make it down for a simple cup of coffee – an even better day when I have a reason to bring someone with me.
- Favorite place for a sweet treat: If I am not getting an irreplaceable ice cream cone from good ol’ McDonalds…you’ll find me at Tea Drops, Heirloom or Lamar’s Donuts. I can’t resist!
Thank you SO MUCH to Chentell for sharing her words of wisdom, still waters run deep with this lady! You can find and buy Convivial Production’s on Etsy.
Until next month everyone!
XO – CLAIRE