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Convivial Production: Locally Made + Timeless Ceramic Pieces

Molding a Business in the Arts

Chentell Shannon developed what she describes as an unwavering commitment to pursuing a career in ceramics during her high school days on the Hawaiian island of Maui. She’s always understood the challenges of making a living in the arts, but she has successfully turned it into a career here in the Midwest. 

Today, her business—Convivial Production—is the result of her efforts. Yet creating and selling timeless ceramic pieces is only part of the vision Shannon has for her business. She is also working to create jobs in the arts so others can enjoy it as a career.

After developing an interest in ceramics, she moved to the mainland United States to attend Wheaton College in Chicago. While she studied different art forms, ceramics continued to remain her primary interest. Once she graduated, her now-husband suggested Kansas City as an attractive place for an aspiring artist.

“I think ceramics is cathartic,” Shannon says. “Working with your hands and being repetitious with movements is relieving for the mind and soul.”

After moving to Kansas City in 2013, she began making products and determining if the area would be a good fit for her plans. She decided to stay and worked out of different studios for a time before she began renting a small space in the back of a construction warehouse. Fast forward a number of years and she now has a large studio in the West Bottoms. Additionally, her staff has also grown to four full-time positions and five part-time positions. 

Shannon describes her style as minimalist and clean, and she crafts products for the home, table and garden categories. She says her intention is to be timeless in style and for her products to be functional enough to use every day. 

Many products and artists chase trends, but Shannon says she has a commitment to not browse what others are producing. She wants to create unique products, and she doesn’t follow trend reports. 

Candles have become a large seller for the company, and she has also recently released a new collection of products in all three categories that feature a grittier sand-colored stoneware clay body. Many of her other products come in ivory.

Convivial Production products have been sold all throughout the United States in more than 250 retail stores that have participated in the wholesale program. The business is also expanding a restaurant line at local venues such as Messenger Café and Fox and Pearl.

One of the latest avenues of growth for the business is the opening of a retail store, which will be housed in the former YJ’s Snack Bar location in the Crossroads District. This store is expected to open in March and will be a garden concept with ceramic pieces for the outdoors as well as a botanical gift shop.

“We wanted to take on the challenge of redoing the space, honoring it and creating a neighborhood shop,” she says.

She says she doesn’t have any immediate plans to open another retail space as she says she isn’t chasing growth for the sake of chasing growth. If she opens additional retail stores, she says she would likely offer something different as she doesn’t want to repeat the same offerings in multiple locations.

“As a consumer, I love variety,” she says. “We are committed to being thoughtful about what we are creating.”

Shannon wants to be able to showcase to the public what goes into making her products. She has also made the decision to use more local, grassroots and non-traditional marketing, which she has done through efforts such as creating a mural in honor of the West Bottoms. 

Overall, Chentell Shannon wants her products to encourage conviviality just as the company name suggests. After all, using her creations to help create a friendly, lively and enjoyable atmosphere around good company is another reason why she enjoys ceramics.