Meet Handcrafted America’s Artisan Christian Royal, Christian Royal Pottery

Christian Royal, Christian Royal Pottery

Christian Royal was born with Down Syndrome and thankfully, his parents, Mike and Helen, did not listen to the experts who told them their son would never be able to learn, never become educated. Instead they took another path, exposing him to many activities in their homeschooling lessons. When Christian was a teen, one of those activities was pottery, and Christian was not only enthralled, he showed real talent. The ability and opportunity to create one-of-a-kind, beautiful pieces of functional art is a gift for any artisan, and for Christian, in addition to self-expression, the act of creating gives him confidence, self-worth, purpose, a sense of place in the community, and above all, a thriving business.

Now in his mid-twenties, Christian is unable to communicate, except with single, simple words. Arithmetic and a sense of time do not exist in his world. But one look at his charming, yet intricate, designs and words, nor math are not necessary to know the heart of the artist.

Christian’s work is featured in several galleries, markets and shops in Charleston and throughout South Carolina Lowcountry, and purchased by customers across the nation.

In a 2013 SheKnows article, Helen says of her son, “He has his own gift of noticing beauty everywhere and reflecting that beauty in his artwork.”

Meet Christian…

What drew you to your chosen craft?

As part of his 7th grade homeschool curriculum, Christian began taking pottery classes at a local studio in Charleston, SC. His instructor placed a slab of clay on the ground and told Christian to press his shoe into it. The geometric pattern of his tennis shoe was imprinted on the clay – a moment of “magic” that immediately captured his delight. For over a decade that fascination of impressing designs upon clay has remained a constant for him.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?

Christian starts with a slab of colorless wet clay. But that block of featureless clay can be transformed into platters, dishes, or bowls. On them, he can create intricate designs of leaves or lace. These pieces are then placed in a kiln and fired to 1,945º transforming the clay into stoneware. Then he brushes underglaze colors into the impressed designs and dips them into a silica glaze. The pottery is re-fired to 2,230º turning the glaze into a glass-covered piece of pottery. Thus, his slab of colorless, featureless wet clay has become a beautiful, colorful piece of stoneware. Opening the kiln after the glaze firing is like opening his presents on Christmas morning.

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?

Making things with one’s hands allows for endless possibilities of discovery and creativity. Whenever we travel we are looking for new leaves and new forms to experiment with. Over 30 types of leaves have been used during the past ten years.   We enjoy antiquing and looking for different molds and shapes to make. And we get to take the beautiful handmade piece of lace someone else created decades ago and repurpose those patterns into a bowl, plate or platter to be used in one’s home. Making things with one’s hands allows for a dimension of life that cannot be experienced otherwise.  

In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass produced?

Are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced? That answer probably depends on what the item is. However, handmade mugs for one’s daily coffee, or one’s home cooking to be served on handmade platters offers something special and charming that cannot be obtained from using mass-produced items. A home is all about homemade. Thus, the more handmade items in the home make the home more personal and give the home more charm and character.

What does the future hold for your type of work?

As with other artisans, for potters making pottery is often a passion. One has to do it. It is not unlike painting. You start with the blank featureless slab of clay and begin to create something based on your imagination and creativity. You take the piece you created and then you repeat it with new ideas and designs. You keep doing that until one day you have a vision to create something else. And the process starts over, and over, and over. The future holds endless possibilities and designs and colors and dreams. Creativity births creativity; that is the future.


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