Seeds Coffee - Birmingham, Ala Coffee Roasting / Non-Profit Organizations  / A Potter’s Perspective: Spotlight on Joel Shaw
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A Potter’s Perspective: Spotlight on Joel Shaw

Every time you walk into your local coffee shop, you experience once again the cacophony of voices and the sound of the espresso machine mixed with the smell of freshly-ground coffee. These are the things you love, the things that make a business meeting or lunch break with a friend a pleasure.

While the sights and sounds all contribute to the experience, it’s the multitude of stories woven into the fabric of the shop that we take beyond its walls. These narratives shape our perspective on life, reminding us of what is important. One such story stood out last week when Clint, one of our baristas, was telling us about Seeds’ tea pots and cups.

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The pottery is all handmade by Joel Shaw, the hands behind Eugene Sailor Studios. If you frequent coffee shops or even if you just enjoy coffee and tea at home, chances are you probably have a favorite brew as well as a favorite cup to drink from. “People tend to have a glass they like,” Joel says. “Most people have something they will go to if they have an option, and I like that aspect of it.”

What’s Joel’s favorite thing to make? “Little tea bowls,” he says with a smile. “I don’t think, at this point, I’ve ever made two the same.” Eastern cultures like the Chinese and Japanese value yunomis – teacups – and tea bowls for their practicality and artistic appeal, and Joel loves the history behind these pieces.

Customers appreciate Joel’s pottery for its beauty and functionality—two things he takes seriously. For the past three years, he’s honed his skills by studying shapes so as to make pottery that is both artistic and useful. When you visit Seeds and take a sip of your favorite tea from one of his cups, Joel hopes his pottery inspires you to support what you love and use it well. He wants others to consider investing in things for the character they have, the pleasure they give, and the usefulness they lend themselves to.

Like any good artist, Joel models this philosophy in his own life. He not only uses high-quality recycled clay from the local studio he rents, but he also puts his earnings towards a good cause. His devotion to creativity has developed into an opportunity to support other passions. He and his wife Kristen are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, and the pottery business carries the financial weight of that, as all profits Joel makes support the adoption.

The Shaws love it when people ask them why they’re starting a family by adopting. “It opens the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone and say, ‘Well this is what we believe, and we feel that we have been adopted.’ And being able to have that opportunity through just making pots has been just a lot of fun.” Kristen and Joel look forward to having more children in their home someday – both adopted and biological. “Lord willing, we’d love to have this family that’s just very culturally diverse—not just for the sake of diversity, but a good example of what both community and family look like as the body of Christ…There is more to the character of God than sometimes what we see just in our culture.”

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Besides his desire to adopt, Joel also has big dreams to eventually expand the business, employing those who are having difficulty finding work. He believes in the good of “utilizing your ability as a company owner to maximize what your company is doing.” Though higher-quality items might cost more, he says, “It’s worth spending more money if what that company is doing is good.”

Joel encourages others to also explore their own artistic interests. Don’t hold your creativity inside because you’re afraid of failure or because you don’t think you’re creative, Joel says. “Trying and failing is a big part of creativity. You don’t have to be excellent at it to enjoy the process of creating or watching yourself improve through that process.”

If you’re interested in Joel’s work and want to enjoy some of his pottery, visit Seeds or go to the Eugene Sailor Studios website and find the contact/purchase page. You can also find him on Facebook.

Joel shares the vision and passion of Seeds, and that’s why we support him. Having his masterpieces in our shop is a good reminder of what is possible when you work hard and put your heart and soul into something you love.