We first came across the pottery of Brooke Shepard, who sells her wares under the Clay Island Ceramics brand, during a recent trip to West Texas. We reached out to see if Brooke would make something exclusively for our market, and the inquiry resulted in our new Black Clay Cups and Tumblers, which have become our favorite new vessels for serving all manner of hot and cold beverages, from morning coffee to evening cocktails. 

Read on to learn more about Brooke, and to see some in-progress photos of our Black Clay drinkware. 

How did you get into ceramics?
I was in hospital for an extended stay when I was a child, and they offered pottery classes for patients. I fell in love with it way back then. But I fell into photography, which later became my career. I started my journey back to clay in 2017, and started Clay Island Ceramics in 2021. 

What inspires your pottery?
My family splits its time between Austin and Marfa, Texas, where my husband and I are partners in a distillery. So I get a lot of inspiration from the landscape and arid climate, and the light in west Texas is incredible. As a photographer I’m always so drawn to shadows. 

That distillery, Marfa Spirit Co., is where we first saw your pottery. Are you into cocktails?
I love a ranch water, even though it’s overdone at this point. But the one we make at the distillery has some lime oleo saccharum in it, which make it extra good. That and a Moscow mule are my go-to drinks; out here you need something refreshing and citrusty. 

What was the process for making our cups and tumblers? 
I wanted to make a universal mug that’s fun to hold in your hands. When you’re drinking from a ceramic cup it’s a totally different experience because it feels more from the earth. I found this obsidian clay that’s red when you throw it, but after it’s fired it turns black with some rich brown tones to it. Black clay can be temperamental, so it took me some time and trials to get used to it—half of my first bath of samples blew up! But once I was used to it, I loved how the final product looked. 

We love the contrast between the slightly rough, matte exterior and shiny glazed interior. How did you do that?
When each piece is nearly finished on the wheel, I run a sponge around it to give it subtle ridges. Then I glaze the inside with a clear glaze, which brings out more of the brown tones on the interior, especially when it catches the light. 


February 22, 2023 — Nick Fauchald