We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Chambers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, what do you attribute your success to?
Authenticity, ambition, and passion are three characteristics I would associate with my brand as well as brands, companies, and creatives I admire. A person’s authentic self shines through when you stop worrying what others think, abiding to trends, falling into patterns and that may take you off course. I have found as I have gotten older and gained more work and life experience, the fear that I had in stepping into my authentic self and beginning to trust my intuition and creativity began to naturally fade. I began to focus on what makes me happy as a person, which translates into my work. Surrounding myself with independent and passionate individuals has also been an enormous support and inspiration. Family and friends that I have known for years or just recently gained a relationship with have been integral to the beginnings of my business and infinite growth. Whether they be in my chosen industry or not, I gravitate towards people who have dedication and ambition with whatever they are doing – teaching, wood-working, gardening, parenting – I take from each person what I can and continue to push forward and stay inspired. Pursuing what makes me happy and motivated has been extremely important, not doubting myself any step of the way. Of course I will debate on whether or not something was the right decision, I end up on the path I knew was right from the beginning. In terms of my business and the people I work with, I have focused on both encouraging and designing with them, getting my vision across while also retaining theirs. I believe it is very important to find that balance yet carve out an identity for your own brand. I work closely with all of the artisans and designers but also maintain a human connection, whether thats wishing them happy birthday or sending small holiday gifts, checking in on everyone periodically to keep not only the level of communication but a strong relationship. Each vendor is extremely special and integral to my brand, and by carefully selecting and consulting with both them and my creative partners, my vision began to unfold and is continuing to grow and elevate.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business really began during the pandemic. I have always had an inkling towards a creative, retail-type endeavor but could never quite pin it down. Many discussions, lamenting, and daydreaming went into what is now Butaque. My best friend and creative partner, Julie, basically wanted me to start doing instead of talking, and all it took was her setting up an Instagram account and telling me – go. What began as an idea has now transformed into an online retail shop, specializing in housewares, ceramics, and glassware from Europe, Latin America, and the United States.
I consulted with two women business owners I know, in terms of approaching vendors, and their greatest advice was to be direct, and that you will get some no’s, but if you believe in what you are trying to put together, the right people will come to you. The first vendors we had (and still have) have been so patient and integral to our growth. We have continually added like-minded designers and companies to the site and have honed in on our aesthetic and value-driven vision. I really try to scout designers and artists that are smaller and may not have a well-known presence, especially in America. As aforementioned, I have continuously trusted myself and where I want the business to be and it has been really spot on. I have also lucked out on the people I closely work with: my brother does all of our product and lifestyle photography, my friend Julie has helped with branding and creative direction, my friend Ashley has allowed me to make her home a makeshift shipping and receiving location, and my cousin is my accountant – this is just to name a few. With success also come challenges, and there have definitely been ups and downs. I think my main challenge during the past two years has been balance and time management. At first I thought I could and had to do everything by myself. This included shipping, receiving, website updates, inventory, social media, communication with vendors, etc. All of this was to be done, in addition to my other job, which I had kept because as many know, a business isn’t paying a salary right off the bat. I had a breaking point and the overwhelming feeling of inevitable failure was creeping up on me. I had to again turn to my network – who could help me, what could I ask people in order not to feel so defeated? I began to get help – my cousin began running social media, I made a better effort too learn more streamlined marketing programs, I scheduled my time diligently, I stopped overthinking every minutia of aesthetics, and most importantly – I began to take time for myself. I would spend every “free” moment working, mornings and night until I reached the burnout. Now I make sure that when I have the inkling of saying to myself, “you have a free hour before bed, let’s do some work” I now allow myself to turn off the computer and read or have a glass of wine with a friend. That balance has been crucial to my personal life which almost always translates to my professional endeavors.
More about the brand: the word Butaque (boo-ta-kay) is a Spanish word for a type of low armchair. The most well-known interpretation of the Butaque chair came from Clara Porset, a Cuban born artist and designer who adopted Mexico as her home and became completely immersed in the country’s craft, culture, and traditions. Porset’s work resonated with me in the sense that she designed for everyone – but mainly a focus on working class and accessibility to functional and good design. She found a sensibility and connection with her adopted home and created a body of work to be used and admired by all. My personal values and the values I instill in my company closely align with Porset’s; we are in touch with customers and people we work with and believe the intent of products and design should be meaningful and purposeful. Butaque believes in supporting independent artisanal brands that personalize a space with an emphasis on a more meaningful aesthetic. The vision and foundational objective for our clients is to offer a variety of unique and curated pieces that will complement existing collections through informed and mindful spending. Combined with a sentiment for a more conscientious approach to collecting along with environmental and sustainable awareness, Butaque showcases brands that have a similar ethos which help contribute to communities, art forms, and traditions that continue to preserve cultures and practices.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If anyone has been to Houston, you have seen how sprawling and just plain enormous it is. It’s a tricky city in the sense that you cannot be plopped down, its much easier to have a destination and know what area you want to visit. With that, knowing someone who lives here is extremely helpful!
The area that I think has the most attractions, super creative, filled with many independent businesses, and walkable is Montrose. Situated close to downtown, the museum district, and Rice University, it is centrally located and once you have started in Montrose, it’s very easy to explore the other neighborhoods nearby. We would definitely start at one of the most unique, beautifully laid out museums, the Menil Collection. The main building houses rotating exhibits as well as Dominique de Menil’s personal collection, my personal favorite is the Byzantine collection. Along with the main building is the Rothko Chapel, Cy Twombly Gallery, Dan Flavin Flavin Installation, and the Drawing Institute. All buildings on the campus are free always! You can also picnic or do yoga on the lawns around the campus, surrounding yourself with giant oak trees. This is almost a full day in itself. Weather permitting, I would take you to the James Turrell Skyspace at Rice University at sunset to immerse in his fantastic light show sprawling onto the ceiling and night sky.
We would visit Cafe Brasil, a mainstay in Montrose that has been open for 30 years. The nightly live music, great (not Brazilian) food paired with a glass of wine on the patio filled with jasmine and bamboo makes for a lovely Houston evening. I always run into people I know at Brasil, and in the neighborhood in general, so we would definitely meet some Montrose characters and locals. My other favorite patio and wine bar is Light Years, a natural wine bar and shop located in a remodeled Montrose bungalow. They have a super approachable sensibility and fantastic wines from all over the world. I also love 13 Celcius for their endless knowledge of any wine imaginable and wonderful charcuterie plates, the building is also charming. We cannot go without sampling Houston’s diverse food scene, my favorites in the area are: Hugo’s for incredible interior Mexican food, sit at the bar and have a Hugo Rita and a Langosta Taco, Lua Viet Kitchen for the best yellow curry and freshest ingredients, Pondicheri Bake Lab for breakfast and Chai Pie, and finally happy hour at Uchi – great prices and a unique take on Japanese cuisine, an Austin transplant but I love it, super friendly staff too. This list had to be whittled down quite a bit but it’s a start! If the weather is nice, they have great concerts at White Oak Music Hall on their outdoor lawn, Miller Outdoor Theater located in Hermann Park has a great hillside to bring a picnic and take in concerts and plays. The Continental Club in Midtown for country, blues, and rockabilly shows and The Flat for Wednesday Reggae Night.
My favorite places to walk and take in nature are the Buffalo Bayou Trail and the Houston Arboretum. If you are not familiar with a bayou, it is basically a river like water feature, yet doesn’t move much and has a brown-ish gray color, due to its muddy banks and bed. The city and park’s board have done a great job of carving out trails and terracing native plants along the Bayou and during the week, the pathways are near empty and quiet so you can really get a good stroll in. The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is a nature sanctuary and wildlife habitat – birds, rabbits, maybe some gators – that you can meander through all while being shaded by a variety of trees and plants that thrive in the wonderful environment. We could also wind down a day of walking with a yoga class at The Atrium Yoga Studio, nestled on a second floor among oak trees. They specialize in slow flow classes, along with stretching and breath work.
Honestly, I do not do a ton of shopping in Houston, and if I do it is mostly at bookstores. I would definitely go to Brazos Bookstore, near Rice, which is a local independent bookstore that has been around almost 50 years. They have a paired down selection of every genre you could ask for, and always have a wall of recommendations from the staff. I would also go to Kaboom Books in Woodland Heights, slightly north of downtown. Walls and aisles are filled with gently used books and literally any genre under the sun. If you are looking for something specific or obscure, ask the owner and he will know exactly what shelf that book is located. Other shopping I partake in is at the grocery stores! Sounds crazy but we have really great grocers. One of my favorites is Phoenicia in downtown. The specialize in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and European products, spices, dips, cheeses, pastries, and wine. Their selection of dips and prepared foods are perfect to grab on the way to a picnic or dinner party. I also love the Heights Grocer, about a 350 square foot market specializing in natural wines, but also carry niche cheeses, crackers, dry goods, candles, and non-alcoholic beverages.
For a venture outside of town, I would go to Galveston, only on a clear day, and drive along the Seawall and head to the private beaches like Pirate’s Beach and Jamaica Beach. If you are used to crystal blue water, this may not suit you, half the time I don’t even get in the water! But it is nice to get a out of town and it’s a short drive. If we had a little more time, I would take you to Austin for the night or New Orleans for a weekend. Both cities are fairly close and are places many Houstonians escape to for the weekend.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Obviously, a huge shoutout must go to my parents for raising me to be respectful, prideful, and to be myself. The environment my brother and sisters and I were raised in taught us all to be mindful of our actions yet independent and free-thinking, we had a lot of freedom in the sense we all sought what made us happy and as adults, are all very unique and different but share many of the same qualities. My family encouraged me to pursue my education, passions, and individuality and have always been my guide to sensibility and fulfillment. My family is my constant but along with them, I have incredible friends and have had wonderful professors, mentors , coworkers, and jobs that helped shape me. I began to realize how much unwavering support and inspiration that was right in front of me later in life, so now is the time I have been turning to them as much as possible.
Main image: mine All other images: Zach Chambers Photography