2024 Renegade Craft Tour! →

Renegade Craft Fair

May 13, 2016


Maker Spotlight


Clay Imports is an Austin institution, designing and sourcing responsibly-made clay tiles from all over the world. Robin Rosales gives us a look into their line of home goods (Clay-ATX) and what makes this company tick!


Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind it?

So, a little more background information first. I have worked for Clay Imports for about half a year. The goods are just an offshoot of our company as a whole—it is primarily our home goods that we are showcasing here!  We import clay tile and goods from Mexico, Morocco, and Istanbul. So, Clay-ATX is a modernization of our parent business name, Clay Imports. Because we do just that. Import clay goods!

In all of these questions I’ll be answering on behalf of myself and Nick Barriero (co-owner of Clay Imports with his brother Zac).

Have you always been passionate about design?

Since joining the Clay Imports team, I feel like my affinity for design has grown exponentially! Nick and Zac’s love for craft and beauty is infectious. Nick has always been passionate about design and it is so evident in how he describes tile, clay, and the production processes.


When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?

My background is in coffee and coffee production, in some ways very disparate from clay tile, and in some ways remarkably similar. In both coffee and clay there is such a reverence for products of the earth; the producers that I work with on a daily basis aim to highlight and not mask the organic beauty of the natural elements used; bringing to light the unique history of every tile pattern, design, color and even type of clay used.

Nick has much deeper roots in clay craft. Shortly after graduating high school he visited his namesake’s city Barreiro, Portugal. When he arrived he found naturally occurring fields of clay developed by filtered waters of the Atlantic ocean washing through the coral reefs of southern Portugal; he was struck by the beauty and history he found there; thus began his love affair with clay.

What do you think sets your designs apart from others?

We do not aim to categorize our aesthetics in a conventional tile or building materials based on geographic region or eras of time, rather we very consciously strive to blend the lines of existing designs by meshing elements of history with contemporary colors and innovative techniques. I do love that we have such personal connections with the tile we use and relationships with our tile makers. It’s so important to me to be able to build community with our tile producers. In fact, at the end of April I will be in Guanajuato, Mexico spending time with two of these very producers learning as much as I can and further building our relationships!


Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?

I’m going to let Nick answer this since he’s been doing this way longer!

Nick: With regards to high-end imports, it’s very difficult to speculate what the market wants, what I once deemed as my greatest failure is now my greatest realization; only now though do I accept it as a a realization and not a failure. We think that because we like something everybody will like it. One time I was in Guanajuato and I saw some plates and thought they were amazing! I bought SO many of them, took them back to Austin and tried to sell them. I sold one. I realized that just because I like something does not mean everybody will like or buy it. Making stuff is cool, but you have to be careful where you invest your resources – whether it is in money or time.

Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?

I gained 20 lbs because I work a lot and don’t have time to exercise…. But I think that’s it.

What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?

Our team here is SO creative. We’ve got such varied backgrounds and histories, it’s amazing to see all of the ideas our group has. We also work with a lot of brilliant designers and artists. My favorite thing is to see an idea—a pattern, color, or product come to fruition! Allowing the initial inspiration to be carried all the way to production. That’s just so awesome! And it’s so evident how much of a team effort everything is.

How does the city you live in influence your work?

Austin is a dynamic and engaging city! It’s so much fun to be a part of this landscape. We are continually inspired by the community here. Austin doesn’t fit into any mold—it’s a little funky, a little glamorous, a little unconventional, and very warm. We hope the same can be said about us!


What made you take this leap into being your own boss?

Where I’m building this line now, I’m actually not my own boss, I just have a lot of creative freedom within Clay-ATX to take my ideas to new places! I have a Master’s in International Business with a concentration in Marketing. My studies have helped me to view all of my endeavors through the filter of sustainable business growth. With each new facet of our home goods line I try to consider both business and beauty, creating things I love, while still paying attention to marketability. It’s wonderful to be a part of such a supportive company that has really encouraged me to explore my creativity and follow my inspiration wherever it leads!

What are some inspirations for your work?

Inspiration comes from the communities and environments where our materials are largely produced: Mexico, Morocco and Turkey! We also greatly admire clay and cement tile giants around the world. We are inspired by the cities we’ve visited, and the people we’ve met. Clay Imports is devoted to celebrating innovation while honoring tradition; we have a heartfelt reverence for the unique art and history that each tile bears. Every hand-crafted tile we source represents part of a beautiful mosaic of people and places, society and community; all of which we want to remember and relay to our clients.


What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?

Ask questions and get feedback—take advice! But also, don’t be afraid to pursue what you believe in with conviction; you have to be your own biggest fan!


All things Clay-ATX: