Dec. 6, 2022
People of PROXY : MaryMar Keenan, MMCLAY
Our first feature for the PEOPLE OF PROXY series, MaryMar Keenan is the artist and designer who founded MMclay, a small local business specializing in handmade ceramic tableware and homeware. Their beautiful pieces can be found in the pop-up airstream shop along Linden Alley, and you can take a peek into the design and production process at their studio and showroom located around the corner at 69 Gough Street.
Cassiopea McDonald, PROXY’s Program Director, interviewed MaryMar to hear more about her experience at PROXY.
Cassiopea McDonald: What initially drew you to PROXY space?
MaryMar Keenan: 13 years ago, my original studio was on Linden, behind Blue Bottle. I was literally behind the baristas, so I wasn’t able to bring customers in and out. During that time, this space (PROXY) was an empty lot, and a Christmas tree lot during the holidays. Then PROXY started to come in, and it really started to change the neighborhood.
When my business started growing, I started to look around the neighborhood for retail. I really don’t need much. It’s just pottery and it doesn’t take up a ton of space. I had walked by this lot for years and years, there was a mobile barbershop that would park here occasionally, I thought it was the greatest idea. Then I found this sweet little airstream on a bulletin board in a coffee shop. I thought this kinda works with the whole aesthetic of PROXY, because it’s steel, and this is a perfect corner for a little ceramics shop.
CM: So you have seen the PROXY space transform over its lifetime in the past ten years?
MK: Absolutely, I’ve been in the same neighborhood for a long time working on this block. I love what PROXY has done, it changed the neighborhood, and built this amazing community of Hayes Valley with it. It felt like it didn’t have quite the same connections there are now, and PROXY has become the central location for so many people to come in, customers of ours that know exactly where it is. It’s lively and brings great energy to the neighborhood and I think all the merchants appreciate it for that as well.
CM: How community impacted your business here vs your other location?
MK: My other location is on Gough and Market, which is a pretty busy street. When I built that space out, I put a small showroom on the front. The studio/ showroom is more of a destination for our customers as we don’t get as much foot traffic as the PROXY lot. The Airstream is perfectly situated in a way that really tells a story, and the way PROXY is set up for us to be here is very inviting. You can feel the sense of space and community in this neighborhood.
We have had this airstream on this lot for over four years. People love it and know it and recognize it, and then they come in and want to talk about how we got here. That goes along with what my business is. Making handmade pottery, I think is all about community, whether you realize it or not, because that’s about eating and drinking together and creating this ritual for yourself, in your home or in a restaurant.
I like to think that we’re building community kind of peripherally anyway. The people who have worked for me in the space are outgoing and lovely and end up knowing all the neighbors. PROXY, with Biergarten, the plant shop (Terra Vita) and LUXFit has become this nice community of merchants that work together and support each other.
CM: You do a lot of collaborative efforts, such as the cookbook and various artists’ installations, do you think this space has potentially a collaborative outlook as well?
MK: Yes, I love to collaborate with people in any way, I am always thinking about how we can do events with creators, chefs or photographers. In my other space I also do workshops, just to bring in some more people from the community. At PROXY, I have an opportunity to invite other artists or other merchants into the space. It’s been a great way to collaborate, self promote and activate the space we have here.
It has become an unexpected treat to Hayes Valley when you come in to see what’s happening in the PROXY lot. And the idea of turning these shipping containers into something fun and community-based and merchant-oriented is a great way to use the space, and I’m all in for it.
Say hi to MaryMar and her staff at the MMClay Airstream, or learn more about their process, shop, and homemade ceramics at mmclay.com. Thursdays-Sundays 12pm-6pm