Broad Studios Elevates Austin’s Female Makers in Collaborative Space
Kara Pendl, Hallie Shafer and Genna Williams are the founders and ceramicists behind the studio and its storefront
By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Caity Colvard
Since starting Broad Studios in 2018, the female artist collective has expanded to Broad Club House, where classes are taught on pottery and ceramics, as well as the Broad Shop, where the three founders — Genna Williams, Kara Pendl and Hallie Shafer — celebrate local makers by providing them an affordable space to sell their wares. It’s a pretty impressive expansion in four short years, with, you know, the pandemic and all, and especially considering that Broad Studios was formed out of the sheer need to split rent on an art studio space.
But the blossoming Broad Studios empire is just getting started.
Originally six artists were part of the collective when it opened, consisting of fiber artists, silk dyers, painters and ceramicists. The founding “broads” of Pendl, Shafer and Williams are all professional ceramic designers, and create their art in their studio space and sell in the storefront Broad Shop, which opened this past summer. Other broads come and go, and they typically have another artist or two in house, but the three founders are a tight-knit crew who cite “divine intervention” for bringing them together.
“It did come from necessity at the time,” Williams says. “All of us being under the same roof, we had so much admiration and respect for not only each other but also everyone else’s work; that really is the reason that all of our businesses thrived that time. We were going from a solo practice to really feeling like a collective and feeling like one group unit.”
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While the trio did not originally set out to create an all-woman art collective, they admit the notion came about so organically it was hard to deny the strength of “femme energy” in the studio. Shafer says, “We were thinking of where women belonged and carving a space for ourselves in places women have been overlooked, and art is absolutely that space.”
As for the name, the founders admit they had many meetings to discuss what to call themselves before landing on Broad Studios. Shafer says it’s a double meaning regarding the “breadth of the artists,” while Williams chimes in that she “loved the implication of the word. It’s not just a woman. It’s a take-no-sh*t, badass woman, in my opinion.”
The founders of Broad Studios admit they don’t have an application process to be a “resident broad,” because they’ve always found it to be purely organic. They enjoy getting to know each artist first, along with their art, before welcoming them into what Pendl describes as a “sacred space.” Along with the studio space, each resident receives help with marketing, events and a spot in the Broad Shop, which currently runs on a shelf-rental model to help artists save money on selling retail to wholesale channels.
“We saw that as an opportunity to create a space just featuring local artists, because we have so many talented artists here,” Williams says. “For people who already have lived in Austin forever, who are just moving to Austin or for people who are visiting Austin, I think that it’s really important to know the artists in your community and to be able to support them.”
In addition to the studio and retail spaces, ex-elementary school art teacher Shafer took it upon herself to oversee the opening of the Broad Studios Club House, where she teaches ceramics during workshops, six-week-long classes and date-night sessions. While all three of the ladies came to ceramics in their own unique ways — Shafer from studying abroad in Italy, Williams from her dad’s “weird-ass ceramics” littering their home, and Pendl from creating an outlet away from her normal day job — the trio says they view the classes at the Club House as a “catalyst for community,” in that it’s so much more than just getting your hands dirty on a pottery wheel.
And it’s the sense of community the founders of Broad Studios care most about. From their events and markets, like this month’s East Austin Studio Tour, which they go all out for, to their local art shop, Pendl, Shafer and Williams prize their “deep, rich connections” above all else.