Remembering a 1st place prize she’d won for a clay baby shoe she’d made with art teacher Sandra Kandros during a middle school 4-H arts and crafts contest, Danielle McDaniel took her first pottery class in 1981 through Nashville Metro Parks and Recreation. Soon after embracing clay’s lesson of “process, not project”, Danielle offered to help her Metro Parks Instructor Lena Lucas with kids’ classes and soon afterward was teaching those same classes. Ann Horan, Director of the Centennial Arts Center, saw Danielle’s enthusiasm and offered her a full-time teaching position at the Bellevue Community Center, where Danielle would go on to teach for 15 years. During that time, Danielle also worked at Mid-South Ceramic Supply Company (then owned by Tom Turnbull) which provided a full scope of ceramics information and education.
In 1982, at the request of one of her student’s parents, Danielle taught clay at a birthday party. The clay plates were decorated with slips and single-fired for efficiency and quick turn-around. Two elementary school teachers attended that party and asked Danielle if she would come to their classrooms to teach a clay workshop for an in-house field trip. This began Danielle’s career as “The Clay Lady”.
By 1995, Danielle was teaching 500 to 800 kids per week in schools throughout Middle Tennessee–full grade levels at a time in school cafeterias–and was booked two years in advance. The art teachers of these schools came to The Clay Lady’s workshops and asked Danielle to provide information about how she was teaching the quantity and quality of clay projects in a such short amount of time. Danielle started teaching The Clay Lady’s Inservices; sharing her projects, her Clay Paints Products, and the single-firing process. To further help these teachers, Danielle wrote How to Teach Clay…The Clay Lady Way in 1996. She also produced instructional videos and started teaching Inservices on a national level.
In 2010, Danielle and business associate, Tami Archer, purchased Mid-South Ceramic Supply Company. This enabled Danielle to market The Clay Lady Way on a larger scale and to develop an educational program at the Mid-South Ceramic Supply Company’s facilities in Nashville. After acquiring three more buildings on the property, the business expanded exponentially. Danielle established an Artist Co-op whose mission was to be a creative community which sought to nurture creativity through life-giving community, one artist at a time.
Currently, Danielle oversees 60 on-premise artists with private studios, 270 pottery, sculpture, and glass students, and numerous workshops and community events each year on The Clay Lady’s Campus. Danielle is sought after to teach not only her Inservices, but to also share her successful business model of the The Clay Lady’s Artist Co-op. Danielle provides keynotes about her experience, sharing what she loves to do every day with people of all ages, in all circumstances, and at all skill levels.
Throughout her career, Danielle has shared her artist motto: “Take What You Think. Take What You Feel. Mix It All Up, And Make Something Real.” Danielle believes that an artist’s calling is not just to make beautiful things, but to make the world a more beautiful place. She lives out this motto daily, as she looks at everything her simple love of clay has created and asks herself, “how can I make my best real today?”