Abbie Edmonson Balances Art and Entrepreneurship with HTX Clay 

Abbie Edmonson, a master's degree candidate with a focus on sculpture at the University of Houston School of Art, is on a mission to carve out a space where creativity, community, and innovation can flourish.

Alongside her business partner, Jessica Gutierrez, she is in the process of opening HTX Clay, a membership-based ceramic studio in the heart of Houston, Texas. Amidst juggling her academic pursuits and entrepreneurial endeavors, Edmonson remains steadfast in her commitment to transforming her passion for art into a meaningful and inclusive experience for the community. 

Despite being an accomplished ceramic artist and the owner of Box Sparrow Studio, a Houston-based ceramic brand, Edmonson desired something more. “Opening a ceramic studio for the public has been a dream of mine for over a decade. I envisioned a space that would revolutionize the ceramic art scene in Houston, offering something unique.” 

After a time-consuming collaboration with Etsy and emerging from a pandemic, Edmonson found herself contemplating her work and life. “I was feeling very burned out and started asking questions around the practice that I was in — if this business was sustainable physically, mentally, and emotionally,” she explained. As she took a step back to reassess her priorities, her husband encouraged her to pursue her long-held dream of launching her very own ceramic studio. 

"I approached Jessica, my studio assistant at the time, to explore the possibility of becoming equal partners in this venture. I encouraged her to take her time to weigh the pros and cons, and after careful thought and consideration, we decided to go all in and evenly split ownership of HTX Clay. That was two years ago, and since then, we've been working together to make this project a success,” said Edmonson. 

For the two co-owners, HTX Clay is more than just a business venture — it's a legacy project that they hope will stand the test of time. They share a vision of creating a space where ceramic arts can thrive, and where people can come together to collaborate and learn from each other. 

Co-founders of HTX Clay: Abbie Edmonson (left) & Jessica Gutierrez (right)

Co-founders of HTX Clay: Abbie Edmonson (left) & Jessica Gutierrez

"We want HTX Clay to be a space where people can show up as their full selves and feel empowered to create," explains Edmonson. "It's not just about teaching ceramics; it's about creating a community where people can connect and share their passion for art." 

Their commitment to this vision is evident in every aspect of the studio. From the top-notch equipment and materials to the expert instruction and personalized attention, every detail has been carefully crafted to ensure that their students receive the best ceramic education possible. 

Buildout progress of HTX Clay

Buildout progress of HTX Clay

“At the heart of everything we do is a commitment to our values. We believe that every decision we make, from the people we hire to the way we work together, should be guided by our principles. 

Of our six core values, two stand out to me the most. The first is intentionality. We believe in doing everything deliberately and with purpose, whether it's creating our physical space or connecting with our community. We want to create an environment that fosters collaboration and encourages people to tap into their creativity.

The second value that is especially important to us is: creativity is essential. We believe that creativity is essential to the human experience, and we want to provide a space where people can explore and express their artistic side. Our studio is designed to enhance the creative experience, providing ample time and space for artists to work with clay and create something truly special. 

Buildout progress of HTX Clay

Buildout progress of HTX Clay

One of the main reasons we started this studio is because we saw a need in our community. My students were craving more time and space to work with clay, and we wanted to provide that for them. We're creating a space where people can work with clay on their own time and at their own pace. We want our members to fully immerse themselves in the creative process with access to the tools and resources they might need," said Edmonson

When Edmonson first envisioned an open studio concept for HTX Clay, she knew that this business model, with its membership-based structure, was precisely what the clay community in Houston needed. “Our unique approach sets us apart, and we take pride in the inspired space we've created. As a member, you can utilize all equipment and have access to a space where you can connect with other creatives, enjoy a cup of coffee, or peruse our vast collection of art books. We wanted to provide an environment that is both practical and inspiring, even for those who may not want to work with clay that day,” explains Edmonson. 

In addition to her unwavering entrepreneurial spirit and her passion for creating a dynamic space for the clay community in Houston, she also felt a persistent pull toward pursuing a master's degree.  

As fate would have it, Edmonson found herself wandering into the MFA studios at the University of Houston, invited by some friends to see their work. As she roamed the halls, taking in the artistry surrounding her, a friend and current graduate student posed a question that would change everything: "Have you thought about applying to grad school?" 

Edmonson had long been considering graduate school since completing her undergraduate in 2009 from Valdosta State University, but with business planning in full swing, she grappled with the timing. However, with the unwavering support of her business partner, Jessica, and her husband's encouragement, Edmonson decided to take a chance. "If you don't do it now," her husband reassured her, "you're never going to do it. You'll always find a reason to not do it." 

“After I was accepted into the graduate program, it was an incredible moment of disbelief mixed with excitement. Juggling the demands of running a business and pursuing a full-time graduate program has proved to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It's almost as if I'm a caretaker for two important things at once. On one hand, HTX Clay is like a child that I'm nurturing and actively involved in, and on the other hand, my education is a dream that I've held close to my heart for years. Although it can feel overwhelming at times, I'm determined to give both endeavors the attention they deserve because they both mean so much to me.” 

Returning to school has presented challenges and has been an interesting adjustment for Edmonson. “As a previously established full-time working artist, I had already developed my approach to creating, my perspective on my work, and how I developed it. Faculty members constantly challenge me and ask me to explain the reasoning behind my decisions, which has helped me find my voice, gain confidence, and defend my work. Balancing a new business and school has left me feeling exposed and vulnerable, but ultimately, this discomfort has been rewarding.” 

Outside of HTX Clay

Outside of HTX Clay

Balancing the responsibilities of managing a budding business and pursuing a full-time master's degree has been a balancing act for Edmonson. Despite the ongoing challenge of time management, she takes comfort in the invaluable support of her business partner, Gutierrez, who plays a crucial role in maintaining a harmonious flow. Edmonson firmly attributes their remarkable achievements to their unwavering commitment to open and transparent communication.  

HTX Clay prepares to open its doors summer of 2023 and will offer an array of amenities including access to a 3,360 sq ft facility that houses equipment, glazes, on-demand education by Clay Educators, and personal shelf space for storage of tools, clay, and works in progress. 

Members can immerse themselves in the common areas that are filled with art books and refreshments, providing an atmosphere of creativity and connection. Edmonson and Gutierrez encourage members to utilize the space not only for creating with clay but also for fostering meaningful connections and finding inspiration from like-minded individuals to help cultivate a community that supports and inspires. Stay informed about the opening of HTX Clay by subscribing to their newsletter and following them on Instagram.