We had the good fortune of connecting with Nate Mell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nate, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In retrospect, the idea of starting a small business was a forgone conclusion for me. I have always enjoyed working with my hands and always just assumed I would find a way to do that for myself one day. Felt+Fat started very organically and with a healthy amount of naivete back in 2014. I was working as a server in a restaurant, having recently graduated with a fine arts degree, when my boss, a really talented chef named Eli Kulp, asked if I would make him plates for a new restaurant concept. I took the offer and in the course of working on this small project, came up with the idea of a business that created custom tableware for chefs. Over the next several years I took on partners, interns and employees, eventually growing into our current 5,500 sq ft studio in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.

While we still cater to professional chefs, our vision gradually shifted more toward the home cook over the past years and then dramatically in 2020 when the hospitality orders dried up and at-home orders went through the roof! Now Felt and Fat is a team of 12 staff and several parters, producing many thousands of pieces per month and growing.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Felt+Fat is my business and where all my creative and artistic energy has gone for the last seven years. We have gone from a tiny hole in the wall studio, to a rapidly rising ceramic manufactory in a relatively short time. The things that excite me most right now are getting into the details of my craft and just refining everything to be cleaner, more durable and visually engaging. I love opening up a kiln that’s full of glaze experiments and when I can teach a skill to a new team member.

There have been innumerable struggles along the way, from just figuring out the technical challenges of payroll, to troubleshooting major chemical issues in clay and glazes. We are always barely keeping up and riding a razors edge when it comes to output, expectations and our ability to keep our clients happy. It’s all scary and fun and overwhelming, but that’s why it keeps me coming back every day.

At the end of the day, Felt and Fat is about helping people slow down, and enjoy the little details around some of the most fundamental things we have in common: hospitality and sharing a good meal.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Philadelphia and am fortunate enough to have had friends visit on many occasions. Philly and the surrounding area is amazing for food, drinks, art and the outdoors. Any time I am showing folks around town I try to get a mix of high and low brow entertainment. That means an amazing meals at places like Zahav, FridaySaturdaySunday or Cadence while also making sure we grab a hot roast pork sandwich at some south philly spot like John’s roast pork. When it comes to drinks, there are incredible cocktails at FridaySaturdaySunday (again) or Charlie was a sinner (also great vegan bites), there’s a wonderful natural wine menu (and killer hoagies) at Martha, but one must also partake of a ‘city wide specials'(typically a cheap beer with a cheap shot) at somewhere like the El Bar in fishtown to make it a real Philly trip.¬†Other than food, Philly has amazing museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes foundation, or weird museums like the mutter museum (medical oddities). For outdoor times, Philadelphia has one of the largest park systems in the country (Fairmount park) and more murals than any other city in the country, so it’s great just meander the city looking at the art!
Of course, I would bring any visitor to my studio in Kensington to check out our manufacturing process, we don’t officially give public tours, but if people ask, we oblige ūüôā

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My success in life and in running Felt+Fat is absolutely due to the many many people who have believed in me and my vision over the years. First and foremost is my wife Katherine, who has seen me through all sorts of hills and valleys. Then are my dear friends Carly and Chris, who have been as close as family to me for many years. My business partner and creative director Joel has been there to give Felt and Fat it’s excellent visual presence and is a lovely friend. After that of course there is my family, friends, our chef clients and the many peers in the ceramics and general business community who have helped me find confidence in myself and have shown me how to navigate all the down and dirty details of running a small business.

Website: www.feltandfat.com

Instagram: @feltandfat

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/feltandfat

Facebook: www.facebook.com/feltandfat

Other: https://www.pinterest.com/feltandfat/_created/

Image Credits
Dom Episcopo : https://www.episcopo.com/ Eva Zar : https://eva-zar.com/ Jackson Hallberg: https://www.instagram.com/jacksonhallberg/

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