Now the owner and founder of Kansas City-based Convivial Production, Chentell Shannon spent her college years in Chicago, where she studied ceramics at Wheaton College through a community arts program. The architecture of the city inspired her current designs, which include dinner, house and garden wares.
KCS: Did making ceramics start out as a hobby, or has it always been your passion?
CS: I learned in high school. My freshman year I took my first class. For me personally, it was just therapeutic. My thought progression has changed throughout the years, but what hooked me was the therapeutic, methodical aspect of it. It’s very tedious, and personally I really got into that. My senior year, I was just like “Why not go for it?”
KCS: What made you decide to create and sell dinnerware first?
CS: I’m very passionate about customer service and hospitality. Dinnerware is the easiest expression of that. And beyond that, it expanded into setting a scene. The idea is that we’re making the tabletop ware to bring people together and we’re making things that complement a space to make it look really warm and inviting.
KCS: How has the business evolved in the past few years since you started?
CS: Something I’m more interested in and passionate about is job creation. I’d like to bring in other designers, other people’s products and be a hub for creativity in the ceramic world. I want to create a system that’s really sustainable long-term. We’re implementing a new system for the designs we have now, so hopefully by this coming Christmas we’ll be able to debut a new line of dinnerware.
KCS: What does the future of Convivial Production look like?
CS: There are so many different roads, and it’s hard to say right now. My experience with business decisions is based on opportunities that arise. The plan is to open a retail shop here in five years with a coffee portion or restaurant. We want it to be a holistic experience—customers can see where their dinnerware is made, use it in a setting and then they can purchase it. It just depends on how much is doable.
Back to the Beginning
“I was in college, and all of my friends were getting married,” Shannon says. “So I was interested in working in that field and using ceramics in that.”
But she found that people were more interested in buying her creations than they were in renting them.
“That’s where the business plan came from, and it just kind of evolved from there,” Shannon says.
Now that she’s added staff, she’s been able to tap into her initial dream by offering dinner plates, dessert plates and serving dishes through Ultrapom, a local event-rental company.
“We’ve come full circle with it now that the production has picked up,” Shannon says.