Atlanta maker turns love of pottery into a big, small business

When she was a junior in college, Courtney Hamill would find herself wide awake at 2 a.m. It wasn't the complexities of government keeping the political science major up all night, it was a pottery wheel.

"It drove me insane at first. I was like what am I doing here?" said Hamill.  Her frustration would eventually turn to passion. In 2012, Hamill left her career in the non-profit industry to become a full-time ceramist.

She launched Honeycomb Studio in the backyard of her West Midtown home. Her small-scale porcelain vases, sculptures, barware and more are one of kind, designed by Hamill on her wheel or cast from original molds.

Before college, her exposure to art was limited to the still-life painting she drew as a student at Holy Innocents'. Hamill found she enjoyed working with her hands.

"There is a visceral satisfaction to starting something from a raw material and having a finished product," said Hamill.  "Ceramics are satisfyingly durable."

Courtney Hamill - Honeycomb Studio from Atlanta Makers on Vimeo.

Not long after she launched Honeycomb Studio, she was featured in Southern Living magazine. The full-page spread helped reinforce her belief that she had made the right move, despite not having an entrepreneurship in her DNA.

Hamill originally planned for Honeycomb Studio to offer tableware. "My idea was to make plates and custom tableware for local restaurants," she said. But while she figured out how to produce those items, she worked on the vessels, bottles and home décor items that would launch Honeycomb into the world of mass retail. In addition to selling on her own website, Hamill's items are available nationally at West Elm stores.

Her designs are driven by form with pared down glazes. "I like the shape of objects, that comes first for me. I let that inform the decoration. I like clean modern lines," Hamill said.

For holiday season, her collection of Holiday Heirlooms features three-dimensional porcelain ornaments with 22 karat gold details, doves and Christmas trees including some with 22 karat gold details.

Items in the Holiday Heirloom collection start at $25. Shoppers can also buy ring holders for $18. Or they can invest in a $145 large-scale antler horn from the Antler Series.

It is a constant struggle in the handmade market to keep pricing down, and ceramics is particularly time intensive. It can take two weeks to create pieces from beginning to end, but Hamill works hard to make sure her designs are accessible to a range of individuals.

"I like that people can have pieces that have meaning, that have had human hands on them and that came from Atlanta," Hamill said. "I really hope that all of that work pays off in that it is not inaccessible."

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.