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Conversations with Chloe Townsend

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chloe Townsend.

Hi Chloe, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Hi there, I’m Chloe and I am the owner of Birdtown Craft Studio! I’m an Arkansas native and moved to the greater Atlanta area in 2013. I graduated college in the fall of 2012 with a degree in graphic design from a fairly small Christian college in Arkansas. I’ve always been pretty creative-minded but never wanted to start my own business or anything like that. I ended up in the greater Atlanta area for an internship at a church in Norcross and that’s where I met my husband. Once I realized it was the real deal, I decided to make Atlanta my home. I found a job doing graphic design and it taught me a lot about what I was capable of creatively as well as forcing me to execute my projects well. But it was a pretty intense and stressful environment so I decided to start looking for another workplace after a year and a half. It was in my next workplace that led me to start dreaming for something more for myself. After working for people and helping them accomplish their dreams, I really hit a point where I wanted to start working toward my own dreams, whatever they were. I was so tired and worn down from the typical 8-5 Monday through Friday corporate job. I really started learning that it wasn’t the right style of work for my creative spirit even if the projects were somewhat creative.

In May of 2017, my husband and I went to Barcelona for our third anniversary and I fell in love with the city’s incredible architecture, especially Park Güell. There were colorful ceramic mosaics covering the majority of the park and it was absolutely stunning. I just remember leaving and thinking, “I could do something like that.” I had no knowledge or experience with clay, just a little confidence that if I really wanted to do something like that, I could figure it out. On the plane ride home, I just started talking to God about it. I remember saying, “Lord, if this is something that you want for me, let me know, man. This crap is expensive and there’s no way I can just buy a kiln and all the other equipment that’s needed for this. If you’re not in it, then let me know.”

I went back to work the next week and was telling a coworker/friend about it all and how cool it would be to get into ceramics. And then how freaking expensive it would be and how it probably wouldn’t happen, at least not for a long time. A couple of weeks later, that friend called me and said she had an old acquaintance that was giving away her ceramic kiln for free if someone would come pick it up from her garage. It was 20 years old but had never been used. She was like, ” You want it?” and I was like, “DUH, I want it!” In my mind, that was my answered prayer. I knew that this was something I was supposed to pursue. I ended up taking one wheel-throwing class at a ceramic center in Roswell and the rest has been me figuring clay out on my own.

Birdtown comes from my maiden name (Birdwell) and married name (Townsend) put together. English last names for the win, right? Most of the things I make right now are earrings and mugs. And although those are fun and I like making them, it’s not the main type of ceramics I really want to do with my time and skillset. I want to journey into making things for the home. Tiles, lampshades/lamps, wall art, things like that. That was the original inspiration that Park Güell gave me in Barcelona. I want to bring back intentional beauty and character to peoples’ homes and I want to do it with clay. All of that is to be determined on when I’ll get started with that direction of my business but for now I’m enjoying the ride. It comes from a place of love and meaning for me; I’m so thankful for clay.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I really think it’s been smoother for me than it has for others I’ve seen. I truly believe that my biggest tools to help me get started with this fell right into my lap. I got a kiln and wheel for free. That’s pretty unusual for something like that to happen for someone, in my opinion. My small business is completely functional within the walls of my home. It’s such a blessing to not have to rent anything or go anywhere to complete my work.

The main thing I’ve struggled with is balancing my time with work and life. I still have a part-time graphic design job (which I actually do enjoy) working from home plus I have an 18 month old so for the past year and a half I’m only able to do ceramics at night after I put my kid to bed if I’m not too exhausted from the day. I love doing ceramics, but sometimes I’m really tired. Hah. So unfortunately, ceramic making has taken the back burner for several weeks during 2020 and 2021.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?

I make ceramics – currently ceramic earrings, mugs/tumblers, and ornaments/holiday things around that time of year. I’d say I’m mostly known for my earrings above all else. I’m most proud of the fact that people seem to like the things I make. That’s by far the most satisfying thing about my business. It’s such an honor the hear someone say they love my ceramic goods. I think what sets me apart is that my style isn’t super traditional when you think of ceramic goods. I kind of have a modern, whimsical vibe going on. I love color and love to try random looks all the time.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
I would say that the most important thing I’ve learned from Covid-19 is that we need each other. The way people have shown up for local businesses has been so incredible to watch and so heartwarming. I’m one of many that have felt the love and support and I’m so thankful for my community.

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Image Credits
Emily Ryan Photography

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