• Photo of the bottom of a mug that says "Charlotte Smith, Counter Culture Coffee"


A Q&A with Charlotte Smith

Meet Charlotte Smith!

Meet Charlotte Smith!

Q: How did you get started in ceramics? 

A: I received my BFA in Sculpture at Mississippi State University, so I had some formal instruction, but it wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta that I really started exploring clay. I was looking for work when I first moved and decided to get a membership at a studio in my downtime. Eventually, I found a job and decided to just buy a wheel since I was enjoying it so much. At first, I was only making cups so that I could explore different surface designs and glazing techniques. When Diane Riffel, an owner of Octane Coffee saw them, she encouraged me to sell them. Octane was my first wholesale client and it grew from there. 

Photo of two mugs. One is on its side and the other is upright.

Q: What is it about making a cup that you love?

A: Although ceramic is definitely not instant gratification, it takes about 2 weeks to make a cup, cups feel that way. They’re fairly small and have a specific purpose. Because of this specific purpose, they have a basic shape. It allows me to focus on how that shape functions and the details I want to add. After the piece is thrown, the foot is trimmed. This is my favorite part of the process and I enjoy adding detail to an area that is often overlooked. 

Photo of Charlotte Smith throwing pottery on a wheel.

Q: Tell us about the Atlanta Mug and the process. 

A: My work is mostly black and white, so color was the main focus since it’s so prominent in Counter Culture Coffee’s packaging. I explored greens and purples and eventually settled on the powdery purple. The grid is based off one of my original designs. Like my other pieces, the foot of every cup is different, and “Charlotte Smith • Counter Culture Coffee” is stamped on the bottom. Every letter is stamped individually, and I use stamps that my grandfather used for the tags he made for his 9 hunting dogs. Once they’ve been thrown, trimmed, stamped, and decorated, they’re dipped in a matte clear glaze that has the loveliest finish to hold. 

Q: What is your coffee story?

A: I never really drank coffee until my early adult life. I think that’s mostly because my parents didn’t drink it and we didn’t have coffee shops where I grew up in Mississippi. But my earliest memory was probably of my grandfather and his “half-cup” of coffee in the morning. He had a tan cup with a red painted line on the handle and it was probably the size of a cappuccino cup. He could only have one cup of this half-cup or he was over-caffeinated. I also remember my grandmother telling me about my great-grandfather and how he roasted his own coffee. It was one of the only things they bought from town since they had a farm and grew their own food. She was one of nine and said they were only allowed coffee if they were sick. Nowadays I usually have a pot of cold brew in the fridge since that’s easiest or if I’m out and about, I enjoy a cortado. 

Top down photo of many minimal mugs laying in the grass.

Q: How do you see your business and art evolving?

A: I enjoy learning things and being challenged. So I’m always excited to make something new. Right now I’m working on tile for the front of a coffee bar and restaurant. It’s been fun only thinking about the surface rather than a form. Maybe it’s bad I don’t have a clear direction in my head, but that’s what I like about clay. You can literally make anything, you just have to figure out how to do it. 

Q: What do you do to recharge?

A: I enjoy relaxing with my cats and listening to music, or if I have more time, camping. 

Counter Culture is
  • pushing potential
  • freshly roasted
  • quality coffee
  • sustainably sourced
  • coffee-driven
  • people-driven
  • independently owned