The reason I call it Dirt Roads is because it winds and turns and everything I do is free form,” says Sharon Grimes, owner of Dirt Roads Pottery in Edinburg, Mississippi. “None of my two pieces come out the same. You can do more with hand built. And, I grew up on a dirt road.”
Dirt Roads Pottery is a second career for Sharon Grimes. In 2010, a fire destroyed her family’s store, Lofton’s Flowers and Gifts. “I worked there off and on since I was about 14 years old,” she said. She purchased the store from her stepfather and operated it for 17 years prior to the fire.
“I didn’t have anything to do because the store had burned so I watched YouTube all day, video after video. I’m self-taught to a degree. I basically learned to do pottery over the Internet.” Donna Vosburg of Lov Pottery in Morton, Mississippi, also gave her pottery lessons, but Grimes adds, “You can’t learn everything in just four lessons.”
Having had a successful career in retailing, Grimes entered the creative economy applying her marketing and business experience to her pottery venture. “Probably, I’m more business and marketing than art. I want it to be functional. I’m probably more production, like a small factory.”
Indeed, the studio is productive. She hand builds pots and makes jewelry full time and clears enough profit to employ two assistants, one who glazes and another who helps with the jewelry and in the showroom.
She prices her work in what she describes as “that middle ground between wholesale and retail prices” to make it affordable for people to buy directly from her. “There’s no reason why a potter can’t compete with a gift shop…. My prices are good because I have no middle man.”
She retails directly from her showroom and, once a year, from three booths at the Canton Flea Market. Sales have been good. She had only four pots left at the end of 2014, and she has replenished her showroom inventory within the past month and a half. Next, she has an open-air showroom on the compound to fill. “We’ll open that up in the summer.”
Her jewelry business is thriving, too. Her biggest sellers are bracelets with pearl-like beads and initial charms.
When asked what advice she has for artists, she responds, “They need to start on the marketing, and there are four dimensions to marketing: product, price, promotion, and distribution. They’ve got to balance all four of those. You’ve got to find a product that people are going to pay for. If you can figure out how to sell it yourself, you can make money at it.”
Still, she considers pottery “a good way to make a living. You have total control of your product. You don’t have to wait on anything from China. If something doesn’t sell, you can change it.”
Sharon Grimes doesn’t call herself an artist. A business woman and marketing pro, yes. “I might be more of a crafter,” she says. “I do put out those pieces that are single expressions, but that’s a small percentage of my line.” Making a handmade product not far from the dirt road where she grew up and seeing it fill a need in the market is what drives her.
For more information, visit www.dirtroadspottery.com. Thank you to Sharon Grimes for permitting Mississippi Byways to reproduce images of her pottery and some of her photographs of the Dirt Roads Pottery studio compound.
“Up from the Ashes.” The Carthaginian, April 7, 2011. http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html.
Berry, Abby. “Dirt Roads Pottery.” Today in Mississippi, October 2012. http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html.
Grimes, Sharon. Dirt Roads Pottery. http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/home.html.
Telephone interview by Beth Batton with Sharon Grimes, February 27, 2015.
E-mails from Sharon Grimes to Beth Batton, March 3 and 4, 2015.