The Creative Entrepreneur

October 2023, by Diane Sulg

Melissa Reddick  
Photo courtesy of David Ramsey  
The GOLDIES StoryCups collection is ahit with retailers.Photo courtesy of Melissa Reddick
Fragments of fabricare found in the ColeyTatting collection.
Photo courtesy of David Ramsey

In preschool, Melissa Reddick loved to play with clay, and it is still her fascination today. When attending Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, Melissa majored in fine arts, with a focus on ceramics, and her graduation gift was her own potter’s wheel.  

After receiving her master’s degree in museum education from the University of Tennessee, she proceeded to teach at Mudflap, a dynamic clay studio in Boston. Soon married and living in Davidson, North Carolina, she was able to move a neighboring building scheduled to be demolished into her backyard, transforming it into her own small two-story pottery studio. Working on her own, Melissa made and sold functional pieces and taught ceramics to others.  

One day, it suddenly changed. Upon the death of her aunt, Melissa inherited boxes of family records, photographs, and mementos. Every old love letter, train ticket, and recipe held a key to her past, and she instinctively saw their potential.  

Naturally, she wanted to preserve the original pieces. But at the same time, she wanted to use them in her art. Melissa began what would be a two-year experiment, learning how to use printmaking techniques to replicate everything from handwriting to photographs on slabs of clay. Out of this mastery, a new business path emerged. 

Calling her business Modern History Clay Works, Melissa’s ceramics now feature many of the nostalgic relics she inherited — plus those her customers contribute. Every piece tells a story and has images, textures, or words from another time.  

Her Heirloom Photograph collection features plates, as well as 3-inch jewelry bowls, each with a unique shape and gold rim. In the Coley Tatting collection, precious fragments of her great-grandmother’s fabrics adorn the smokey green-blue glazed pottery.  

Melissa’s newest line, which has a patent pending, is the GOLDIES Story Cups collection. Melissa debuted the cups just a few years ago at her first wholesale show, Atlanta Market, and then took them to American Handcrafted in Philadelphia.  

Each mug featured a story beginning with the line, “Once upon a time there was a woman who loved…” and one of 10 endings, such as “to sing,” “to cook,” or “to dance.” The GOLDIES Story Cups became an instant hit with retailers, and now Melissa has more than 75 endings. Each mug comes with its own fairytale story in a special box. Check out her website to view more of her work.  

Modern History Clay Works outgrew the small backyard studio, and Melissa purchased an old farmhouse in the country to serve as her new place of business. She uses every scrap, still surpasses 1,000 pounds of clay in short order, and has hired a business manager.  

She credits her growth to attending wholesale shows and loves getting customer feedback. When store owners asked Melissa if her GOLDIES Story Cups came in a box, she answered, “Yes” and returned home to devise the box!  

Melissa finds the business of her artwork to be exciting. She is interested in building a strong business structure, enlarging her creativity, and nurturing new partnerships. She has embraced new opportunities, creating custom Heirloom Photograph pieces for historic places, events, and museums, such as the Mayflower, the Capitol, and the Declaration of Independence.  

Without intending to, Melissa has become an entrepreneur, learning to manage a business with rapidly growing volume and endless creative opportunities. She says she is busy all the time, but the happiness in her voice lets you know she is thrilled her beloved artwork has resonance with buyers. By combining clay, history, and sentiment with modern techniques, she creates both outstanding products and a thriving art-based business. 

The Heirloom Photograph collection features unique shapes rimmed in gold.  Photo courtesy of David Ramsey  
Click here to read more heartbeat artist profiles

Diane Sulg 
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina.