Clay & Cabernet: Ceramics at McCheeks Academy

September 6, 2012

Guys, there are just some people in life who are better than you. It’s one of those things you have to accept as truth. I learned this lesson about 9 years ago when I met Carole Smith:

Carole is one of those people who is effortlessly cool. She has her own unique style that comes from years of self exploration, that is completely hers and truly adorable. She is genuine and kind, and actually LISTENS to the things that come out of your mouth. When Carole asks how you are or how you have been, you know she sincerely wants to know, and that she really, honestly hopes that you have been well. I love Carole, and I am so lucky to have met her when I was a young babe.

Take a step back to about 2 blog posts ago. Remember the coffee cup organizer I made? Remember those AMAZING ceramic stackable coffee cups I photographed? Those are not only my favorite cups to have my morning coffee out of, they were hand made by Carole. Here are the photos to refresh your memory:


On top of being an amazing person, she is also an artist. And she is married to one. As you can imagine, Carole and Sean’s home is sort of like fantasy realized for any creative person, complete with special artistic touches and modern design. And peppered with little antique keepsakes, some redone, some just so. Carole and Sean built a large studio space onto the back of their renovated home in Houston, Texas, where Carole houses McCheek’s Mayhem and McCheek’s Academy, and Sean employs his awesome Throttle Tees studio, a company where he does everything screen print and design, and the right way. (

Carole does a number of things in her studio, mostly though she makes ceramics. She sells on her Etsy store and around Houston at local stores and pop-up-shops, but her real joy comes from holding classes at McCheek’s Academy. She caters to everyone; Men, women and children. McCheek’s Academy holds classes for the little ones while Clay and Cabernet is for the grownups. And it’s amazing. Everyone brings a bottle of wine and Carole provides all of the tools and clay to a fun and artistic way to be creative with friends. I have done it twice and it was honestly the most fun I have had in a while. Here is a video of me and about 9 of my girlfriends enjoying a C&C evening at Carole’s studio:

So.Much.Fun! Here is a Q&A I did with Carole:

The Clever Bunny:  You are from Scotland. What brought you to the U.S., more specifically to Texas?

Carole Smith: The first time I came to texas was to go on a road trip to Portland Oregon with a lot of stops along the way. I was traveling with my friends Rhonda and Chris who lived in San Antonio. The next time I came back I had brought my lighting business- Candy’s Chandies over to the San Francisco gift show and I came back to Texas for a holiday.This time were were all out having a meal at Mai’s and my future husband walked in!Sean and I did a long distance relationship between London and Texas for the next 4 years and eventually I moved over here.

TCB:  I love the name McCheeks Mayhem. What inspired the name?
CS: McCheek is a sort of nickname DJ name that I came up with some time ago, its a jokey name referencing my scottishness and cheekiness. The ‘mayhem’ part describes what goes on in my head! Mostly because I was trying to tie everything I do into one and sometimes it really does feel like mayhem.
TCB: How did you get into ceramic making?
CS: I started making ceramics at high school and then moved to London to do a degree and postgraduate in ceramics.
TCB: Your work has a very unique look that is specific to you. When I see something you made, I instantly know “Carole made that!”. Did you have a “brand” figured out before you started your business, or was it more of an organic process?
CS:No brand figured out, I wish I was capable of that sort of thinking! its a purely organic process, tying in my love of vintage shapes and slightly kitschy imagery. Sometimes it all seems too cute though and I want to mess it all up a bit, I try to keep some punk rock and humour in there but that doesn’t always happen.
TCB:I love that your business caters to both adults (clay and cabernet) and children (McCheeks Academy). How do you enjoy being a teacher? Working with little kids?
CS:I love being a teacher, once I got over the nerves of doing it. It was  incredibly nerve wracking at the beginning, even teaching little kids. Now I really do love it, I love little kids and seeing as I don’t have any of my own, it helps to have that part of my life balanced. I enjoy teaching the adults too, its more about being sociable though and I like that part. I really do believe that everyone is capable of being creative and I hope that I’m able to help people to realise that.
TCB: What does your life look like in 10 years?
oh god knows! I’m not a good ahead planner, but I would love to have where my classes are consistently enrolled and I’m making new work regularly.
CS:I’d like to be able to do some foreign travel once a year too, I miss doing that. I want our warehouse to be all fixed up with lots more windows and light and have our apartment finished and rented and the garden – a tropical paradise!
TCB:You also collect records and dj on the side a little. What kind of music do you love to play?
 CSI’m a soul girl! I love 60’s and 70’s soul, northern soul, ska, rocksteady , I also like a bit of old punk rock. I still have my records from when I was a teenager ( in the 80’s) and have some classics , Like The Specials, early Simple Minds, Bowie,etc.
TCB:Who has had the biggest impact on your career so far?
, who very sadly , died three years ago. She was an amazingly energetic and compelling person, and when I first did my road trip from texas to portland, inspired me to give it a go with my first business – Candy’s Chandies, and then we helped to sell each others work in London and America. Once I moved here she was always an inspiration and continues to be so, even though she is no longer around.
TCB: What is your favorite part of the ceramic making process?
 CS: It has to be opening the kiln after the third firing is done and everything is all colorful and shiny! I also like the mold part, when I slip cast and then open the mould and you have a perfect shape revealed inside!
TCB: What is something weird about you that not a lot of people know?
CS: I’m not sure if this is weird or not but I am really really into planes – it stems from Concorde flying over my flat in london twice a day for 15 years when I lived there, and I would run to the window in the kitchen then through to the bedroom and check out its sleekness flying over, you could always tell it was Concorde too ,with its unrivalled noise and boom. so these days in texas,  I’m happy if I get to see a southwest plane fly over my house( I like the red plane against the blue sky, aesthetics really matter to me!) and I always look up if I hear a plane.One of my friends said she’d never seen anyone look into the sky as much as I do. One of these days I’ll actually go to an air show and really get to geek out.
Some of the amazing things you can find on Carole’s website and Etsy shop:
Bird Nerd
Live the Life you Love
Wood Grain Planter
Owl Cookie Jar and Owl Little Mates
Check out Carole’s blog at
For more information about kid’s classes or Clay & Cabernet, go to her website at
To shop, check out her Etsy Shop at
Thank you Carole for chatting with me! I can’t wait to visit McCheek’s Academy again, soon!

5 thoughts on “Clay & Cabernet: Ceramics at McCheeks Academy

  1. cheeky

    Hello, A very insightful post. Thanks for the info. Its great that if our default settings are giving us messy or stringy builds, this dialog can probably help.Thanks for the information


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