Christian Royal has a vocation and a business. While that is not unusual for many people, it is unusual for an individual who was born with Down syndrome (DS*). For the past seven years, Christian has been making pottery. For the past four years, his pottery has been sold in upscale stores and art galleries in Charleston, South Carolina. To grow his e-commerce sales, consideration was given to search engine optimization using Google ad words. But, what would that be compared to a Kickstarter campaign? It was a no brainer! This is a project to promote elegant ceramic art From Sea To Shining Sea. This could be a big deal for Christian to be discovered by Kickstarters.
In 2009, John and Jan Myers, professional potters of thirty years, taught Christian their unique style of making slab pottery. They trained Christian in a method that enabled him to produce graceful and stylish stoneware and, in so doing, they changed his life. In 2012, Joni And Friends, a ministry to people affected by disability, did a thirty-minute television documentary on him that received a Silver Telly Award. He may be the first Down syndrome individual to become a professional potter.
Christian still struggles with single words and has yet to grasp basic addition, the seasons, or time. He does not get abstracts. And, fortunately, pottery is not abstract. Making a piece of pottery is very tangible and "down to earth." You start with a block of wet, gray clay and take it through a series of sequential steps that eventually results in high-fired stoneware – Graceful in Form, Capturing Beauty Through Leaf and Lace Impressions. Christian sees the results of his labors with each completed kiln firing. It is delightful to him.
At any given time, there are over two hundred pieces of pottery in various stages of production in the studio. No piece is finished that at least three sets of hands have not touched and added something to the final appearance and beauty. With each kiln load, Christian’s design and decorative skills continue to be developed, while maintaining the intent of simple, yet desirable pieces. The guiding motif for Christian Royal Pottery is: Stoneware With The Charm of Things Imperfect and Simple.
Christian’s studio and handcrafting skills have equipped him with a vocation that animates his life with purpose, camaraderie, and identity in society. And, many individuals have been part of the story that is Christian Royal Pottery. Without the help, guidance, and opportunities provided by many kind-hearted folks, Christian and his pottery could never have achieved his modest successes thus far.
For a potter to sell pottery across America would be impressive. For a potter with DS to sell across America would be remarkable. The goal of this project is for Christian and his pottery to be discovered beyond Charleston. This is an ambitious goal but highly achievable among interested Kickstarters. And, such an achievement might signal other families about new possibilities for their loved ones with special needs.
*Down's syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. The additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome; typically, physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. However, there is a wide range of abilities among individuals with Down's syndrome. Each person is unique and may possess different characteristics in different degrees, or not at all.
Throughout their life, many Down syndrome individuals continue to be childlike in their thinking and require some level of adult supervision. However, sometimes people with disabilities are as much handicapped by others' low expectations as they are by their disabling condition. Expectations for Christian have always been high.
Christian is the last of six children. He lives with his parents and they administer his business and manage his studio. Each day they work with him, guiding and supporting him in choices and designs in order to help him achieve excellence. They are not potters by training or vocation, but learn and innovate with him. Most days it is delightful.
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Note 1: The stamp in each picture is for scale dimension
Note 2: The incremental $1 increase on various pieces was necessary in order to keep the Rewards part of the software program synchronized with the photo of each respective reward. There is probably a better way to do this, but I could not figure it out. Alas, my shortcomings may cost you an extra dollar or two. Thanks for your understanding.
Risks and challenges
All rewards are unique, handmade pieces of pottery. There are inherent risks and challenges in creating stoneware. Making a kiln load of pottery involves many days. Each handmade piece requires numerous steps and a lot of attention. Besides the making and embellishing, each piece must go through two kiln firings. The greenware is bisque-fired to about 1900º. The glaze firing matures at 2232º. Each of these firings takes about twelve hours with 24-hour cool down periods. So there are about three days of just kiln time involved in each load of finished pieces. But those firings produce magic and beauty.
So that there will be no delays, all pottery for this campaign has been completed and set aside for shipping. Christian’s trademark is permanently fired onto the back of each piece. Each backer will receive a striking piece of ceramic art stoneware and Christian's short biographical card with picture. Shipping will begin as soon as the project is funded and should be completed within three weeks.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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