Artist David Howell

David Howell, Peacock Island, ca. 2006. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Peacock Island, ca. 2006. artwork (c) the artist.

Growing up with a mother who was an artist, David Howell (born 1952), a painter in Philadelphia, Mississippi, recalls sleeping beside a Rousseau-inspired mural in the childhood room he shared with his brother, Mark: “We had bunk beds, and I was bottom bunk and the lion in that painting was right by my head. Always. And the eyes were always. . . you know they were real strong. I loved that, that painting, and I loved that wall.”

He remembers always creating and seeing the abstract paintings that his mother, Millie Howell, and her friends were producing. “So we had a good dose of, you know, what could be possible, not just . . . [put] in a box. . . you can be whatever you want to be.”

David Howell, Ant Movies, ca. 2006. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Ant Movies, ca. 2006. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

Except from learning from his mother, who encouraged her children to draw outside the lines, he didn’t have any formal art training until he went to the Memphis Art Academy.  Howell says that one year of art school “drove the creation right out of me.”

Several years later, to pursue a dream of being a comedy writer, he enrolled at Ole Miss and studied English. “I was there for two years, and I took creative writing. Ellen Douglas was my teacher.”

In 1982, he moved to New York City. His brother’s friend, the saxophonist George Cartwright, knew that David Howell was looking for work as a painter and told him, “Okay, I got my boss. He’s going to call you up, and he’s going to ask you if you know how to glaze walls, and you tell him yes.” Despite not knowing what glazing walls meant, he got the job and tells this story about the first day of his career as a faux-finish painter:

So the address was right across the street from Central Park and the Guggenheim Museum. Top floor suite. It was Mort Zuckerman’s apartment. Mort Zuckerman used to [own] U.S. News and World Report at the time. And also at the time he was dating Gloria Steinem so there’s pictures of him and Gloria Steinem all over the apartment.

So I walked in. There’s like 20 people, and the place was a madhouse. Everybody’s doing everything. There’s all these craftsmen doing different things. And, so, I walk in. George is there, and Mark, the boss, and he was having a heated discussion with one of the decorators. But anyway, they kept talking about this word, faux bois. ‘Faux bois, faux bois, faux bois.’ I kept thinking, ‘What the hell is faux bois?’

And I asked George, ‘What’s this word, faux bois? What the hell is that?’

[George] says, ‘Well that’s fake wood.’

[I] said ‘Yeah, so what is that?’

‘So we’re going to paint this wood to look like another kind of wood.’

I said, ‘Wait a minute. It’s already wood.’

‘Yeah.’

‘So we’re going to paint it to make it look like another kind of wood.’

He said ‘Yeah.’

I thought, ‘Man, only in New York City would people pay other people to paint wood to look like another kind of wood.’

And we had these guys from England would come over. And at the time, London had the only school of faux finishes. And they would show us different techniques. And after a while, I’m painting wood to look like another kind of wood. And it was, you know, the best learning experience I ever had. The best crew I’ve ever worked with. . . . everybody was either a writer, a musician or something else, you know.

David Howell, Deep Sea Summer. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Deep Sea Summer. artwork (c) the artist.

Howell loved working as a faux finisher, but was ready to return to Mississippi after about five and a half years in New York. In his home state, in addition to faux finishing and painting exteriors and interiors of homes, he was commissioned about a year an a half ago to create a mural for Dick Molpus’ cabin. The result was five panels, each four feet by eight feet, of the history of the four-corners area of Neshoba, Leake, Attala, and Madison counties.

David Howell, study for murals at Dick Molpus cabin in Philadelphia, MS. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, study for murals at Dick Molpus cabin in Philadelphia, MS. artwork (c) the artist.

Before the mural commission, though, Millie Howell went behind her son’s back and entered one of his paintings in the Meridian Museum of Art’s BiState Art Juried Competition, one of the oldest juried art competitions in the region. It was selected, and she surprised him on his birthday, some years ago on January 11, with the acceptance card. His painting won an award that year, and his work continued to be shown in future competitions. He also shows at the Neshoba County Fair, where he laughs about the chicken wire separates the viewer from the artwork, and at Horne Gallery in Meridian. 

David Howell, Modern Moon Bride Magazine, 2001. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Modern Moon Bride Magazine, 2001. artwork (c) the artist.

He prefers layering colors, textures, and even objects onto canvas. He explains,

I use spray paints. I like the immediacy of a spray paint. I like spraying on top of another color. Combing through it. Wiping it away. Doing another color. Just putting the objects on top of objects. Blocking things out. And I’ve gotten pretty good at controlling the spray from. . . close, far away, whatever. I’ll stand over the canvas and paint that way.

David Howell, Spectral Forest, 2015. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Spectral Forest, 2015. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Who Ordered the Chicken. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Who Ordered the Chicken. artwork (c) the artist.

In addition to paintings with humorous titles, like Who Ordered The Chicken, David Howell also paints his cats. “I thought they should deserve just as much attention as a portrait,” he says.

David Howell, Self Portrait. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Self Portrait. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Bob and Scoob Are Accidentally Abducted. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Bob and Scoob Are Accidentally Abducted.

David Howell

David Howell, January 2016, Philadelphia, Mississippi

More of David Howell’s work can be seen and ordered as Giclée prints on the website Society6.com/davidhowell.

Water Valley

This will be a quick, brief post about my delightful time in Water Valley this afternoon. I’m going back in the morning to Bozarts Gallery.

Yalo Studio & Gallery is under the narrow, white awning. At the B.T.C. next door, I ate a delicious plate lunch special of sausage, cabbage, corn-on-the-cob, and marinated tomatoes & cucumbers.

Yalo Studio & Gallery is under the narrow, white awning. At the B.T.C. next door, I ate a delicious plate lunch special of sausage, cabbage, corn-on-the-cob, and marinated tomatoes & cucumbers.

I had the good fortune to meet Coulter Fussell, artist and owner of Yalo Studio & Gallery, and Mary Lapides, who founded the Pinehurst Artist Residency.

A hand-painted sign by William Warren decorates the door of Yalo Studio & Gallery.

A hand-painted sign by William Warren decorates the door of Yalo Studio & Gallery.

On view at Yalo Studio & Gallery was a beautiful exhibition, called HOT BLIND EARTH, of ambrotypes, sculpture, and other mediums by J. R. Larson, who was the summer 2015 Pinehurst Artist Resident in Water Valley.

This is an installation photograph of J. R. Larson's HOT BLIND EARTH exhibition at Yalo Studio & Gallery. For better images of the artworks, go to jr-larson.com.

This is an installation photograph of J. R. Larson’s HOT BLIND EARTH exhibition at Yalo Studio & Gallery. For better images of the artworks, go to jr-larson.com.

Installation shot of HOT BLIND EARTH by J. R. Larson.

Installation shot of HOT BLIND EARTH by J. R. Larson.

I also met with five artists & gallery owners who moved to Water Valley from New Orleans. Pati D’Amico and William Warren welcomed me into their studio and home. After seeing their work, about which I’ll write more later, we met gallery owners Annette Trefzer and Mickey Howley as well as artist Katrina Geenen at Bozarts Gallery. I’ll tell you much more about them later and will try to retell some of their stories of Hurricane Katrina and of life now in Water Valley.

Bozarts Gallery is owned by Annette Trefzer & Mickey Howley and has helped several New Orleans expatriates find a sense of community post-Hurricane Katrina.

Bozarts Gallery is owned by Annette Trefzer & Mickey Howley and has helped several New Orleans expatriates to create a sense of community in Water Valley after surviving Hurricane Katrina.

Michael Ashley

As I mentioned in previous posts, I interviewed Michael and Laura Ashley of Ashley Studio Pottery in Tupelo in early March, 2015.

Michael Ashley of Ashley Studio Pottery

Michael Ashley of Ashley Studio Pottery

Michael Ashley makes pots to be used and to be experienced, not in an abstract way, but in a daily-life way that brings us to notice the food that we’re about to enjoy or to feel the warmth of the hot tea on a chilly evening. In 2005, he went to Taiwan as Artist in Residence in the Masters Ceramics Program at Tainan National University of the Arts. He took few belongings with him and lived in a small room with basically one suitcase and a tatami mat. He recalls making some pots when he arrived, to add to his small collection of pots from his friends and purchases in Tainan.

I sort of lived with them everyday, and they became my friends and I understood them in a different way because I was actually using them and I hadn’t really used pots before. [. . .] I think that’s one of the biggest things I learned in Taiwan was making and using handmade objects sort of everyday and I realized that it was something I wanted to do no matter where I was.

Prior to moving to Tupelo, Michael and Laura traveled together for school, to attend workshops, to teach, or for other work. Michael, who is passionate about cooking, said he paid attention to the cultural differences among regional foods, music, and climates, as all of it affects what he does. For example, he talked about a recent gathering they hosted in Tupelo:

We had a crawfish boil this weekend, and I want to make some big pots with the right kind of foot and just fill it with crawfish and have the corn on the top of it. You know, you don’t have crawfish whenever you’re in New England. You have clams and shrimp, so you have other things, but there might be a different idea associated with it.

A footed pot by Michael Ashley

A footed pot by Michael Ashley

Michael sums up his artist statement with one sentence: “Make something, use it, and then make more.” He explains:

That’s really kind of a credo that I’ve adopted, that I make something, and then I go cook, and I use it, and I put something in it, and I see what that does. Not necessarily just from the standpoint of, well, it’s too heavy or it’s too light or gravy looks good in this or potatoes look good, but more about just taking the pot and putting something in it and then making another pot. That’s pretty important to me, actually. I think not just because I get information from it, but [. . .] you know, I think it does something to me inside. Like if you’re a musician. [. . .] I just get fuel for the next thing by using pots.

 

Laura Ashley

Beth interviewing Laura Ashley 3-3-15_photo by M Ashley

Laura Ashley (left) being interviewed by Beth Batton on March 3, 2015. Photograph by Michael Ashley.

Most of this post is excerpted from my interview with Laura Ashley at Ashley Studio Pottery in Tupelo in early March, 2015.  At the studio, Laura and Michael Ashley design, create, and sell ceramic wares for the house and table.  They also teach classes there.

Laura's vase_750

A vase by Laura Ashley

Laura also is executive director of Gumtree Museum of Art. After having grown up in Tupelo, Laura earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics at the University of Mississippi in 2010. She talks about leaving Mississippi for graduate school:

Whenever I decided that I was going to be an artist, I sort of resigned myself to following the wind, I guess, or, following the jobs is more like it, because I knew that it was going to take leaving a place to learn from other people, especially the teachers that I wanted to learn from. They were not here.

I went to New York State College of Ceramics in Alfred University. It is a graduate program very, very specific to ceramics and also glass. [. . .] There’s a lot of material knowledge there that’s available to artists, which is really great. [. . .] It’s a very big program. There’s six faculty [members] as opposed to maybe two or three in the typical sort of art program. And so I got a huge range of opinions and thoughts from. . . and also technical knowledge from these sort of giants of the ceramic art world.

After graduate school, Laura spent a year at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia as Artist in Residence. Working in an urban experience taught her a lot and was enjoyable, but required working in a tight space with others and being as efficient as possible. “You know, again, there’s the whole issue of kiln firing and we were working in old city Philadelphia.”

She describes the transition in her work after graduate school from conceptual based tableware to focusing more on “functional, archetypal vessels that people can use in their homes and want to use”:

My work changed whenever I left graduate school to go to Philadelphia because all of a sudden, I wasn’t making work for the gallery per se anymore. [. . .] I wanted to sell to a specific person who would then take it and assimilate it into their domestic space. My pots at that time had a lot of ego attached to them: they had their own personalities, and it was almost as if they didn’t need you. You know, they had a very specific aesthetic. They were sort of a finished thought, and they didn’t need to travel to a domestic space to complete the concept. They were done. [. . .] I think I changed toward making more functional, traditional shapes and work when I went to Philadelphia and even more so when I came to Mississippi.

Glazed stoneware canisters by Laura Ashley

Glazed stoneware canisters by Laura Ashley

Being back in Tupelo, she says,

It’s really interesting, especially, you know, you leave maybe a place not knowing exactly who you are and what you’re going to become and then you come back and that’s completely changed and you have a path and sort of a purpose. I felt like it was time to come back. I think Mississippi is a really great place to be, especially to be an artist. I’m finding that I’m drawing a lot of inspiration just from being back home and feeding off that.

Michael & Laura Ashley 2_750

Michael & Laura Ashley

Ashley Studio Pottery

Michael and Laura Ashley in the showrom of Ashley Studio Pottery, Tupelo

Michael and Laura Ashley in the showroom of Ashley Studio Pottery, Tupelo

The visual arts in Tupelo got a boost with new residents Laura and Michael Ashley.  Tupelo is Laura’s hometown, and she grew up learning art at the Gumtree Museum of Art, where she is now executive director. She and her husband, Michael Ashley, established Ashley Studio Pottery in the Renasant Center for IDEAs in downtown Tupelo in 2014.

Before returning to Tupelo, Laura was Resident Artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Michael was Visiting Artist and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

I interviewed Laura and Michael Ashley in their studio in early March, 2015. They were moving that week, it was rainy and quite cold in north Mississippi, and they were dealing with getting the heat on in their new place.

So, it was a cold, dark night when I got to their studio. They fixed green tea, which I drank from a cup they had made. It was the perfect size, weight, and thickness when I held it.  It was the kind of cup I would imagine drinking tea from if I were ever to go to the countryside in Japan.

In a later post, I’ll write about them and their work.

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Pots by Ashley Studio Pottery on display

Attractions at The Frog Farm

Describing what a visitor would encounter at The Frog Farm, Louise Cadney Coleman says about her creation, “When you first walk back into the garden, you would see some frog Beefeaters. They’re the guards. And they’re dressed in the costume, like the . . . British Beefeaters. But they’re frog Beefeaters and they guard The Frog Farm. And that’s the castle of The Frog Farm. It’s a garden, and, in that garden, [are] different attractions.”

A frog sculpture outfitted as a British Beefeater guards the entrance to The Frog Farm.

A frog sculpture outfitted as a British Beefeater guards the entrance to The Frog Farm.

Ms. Coleman’s imagination and wit drive the stories, environments, and activities that she invents for her sculptures. The installations also attract visitors, which is why she refers to them as attractions.

Past the Beefeater in the sculpture garden, a raised, wooden, plank walkway keeps visitors’ feet out of the mud and leads to the center of a clearing. Along the perimeter, under a grove of mulberry trees, four-feet-tall frogs appear on various structures and are painted sky blue, lime green, lemon yellow, and fire-engine red. Live frogs make themselves heard but not seen.

LCC on platform in garden_cropped, even smaller

Ms. Coleman lists the attractions at The Frog Farm:

One of them is the Mud Rockers, which is a frog band. And then we have a bird arbor back there, and there’s a Penguin Hill. There’s an alligator hill. We call it the Gator Hill. And you’ll see frog houses . . . You’ll see the . . . G & P boathouse. That’s for George and Peewee because the frogs in that boathouse are called Peewee and George.”

Louise Cadney Coleman, Mud Rockers

Louise Cadney Coleman, P & G Boathouse

Some of the outdoor attractions have been damaged by spring storms, fluctuations of the weather, insects, creeping vines, and time. The sculptures that cannot be spruced up with a fresh coat of paint are replaced. Ms. Coleman found that alligators made from logs or limbs were especially prone to decay, so she now uses treated wood for their bodies.

There are also attractions inside her showroom, the Frog Nest.  She describes one of them:

When you walk into my atrium, the first thing you see is my aquarium. And that’s one of my favorite things because you don’t have to change the water. You don’t have to feed the fish. And it’s a stunning thing, I think, when you walk in there. It really shows my imagination in full.

Tropical Fins, ca. 2010, is an indoor attraction by Louise Cadney Coleman at The Frog Farm.

Louise Cadney Coleman, Tropical Fins, ca. 2010

She continues:

The background is made from old tin and the fish are placed just along there. It’s about eight feet by eight feet. [. . .] It’s filled with tropical fish and some catfish. And there’s a couple of turtles in there, too. It’s called Tropical Fins.

Tropical Fins (detail), ca. 2010, by Louise Cadney Coleman

Tropical Fins (detail)

She shapes her critters from sticks or limbs that she finds, “Wherever I am and I’m looking around.” The natural shape and curve of the stick suggests the bird or fish it will become. Sometimes, Ms. Coleman uses a pocketknife and a wood file to shape it. She likes colors, so she coats each creature with acrylic paint. “I try to be true to nature or what people would like,” she says about her color palette.

She hopes that visitors to The Frog Farm will leave with “Joy and an appreciation for the art world and for art, especially folk art . . . This is another form of art that I want people to appreciate and to understand . . . For most folk artists, it’s a natural thing.”

Louise C Coleman portrait copy

Louise Cadney Coleman works in her studio at The Frog Farm every day that she’s not at her cytology job, which she does on Mondays and Wednesdays. The regular admission fee is $10.00, the discounted fee for seniors is $3.00, and coupons are available at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

Read the other MS Byways blog posts about this artist at Introducing The Frog Farm, Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm, and How Frog Farm Got Its Name.

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.


Articles and other blogs about The Frog Farm:

How The Frog Farm Got Its Name

outdoor Frog Farm copy

The Frog Farm as seen from the road in early March, 2015. The brown building on the left was Louise Cadney Coleman’s first studio, which she eventually outgrew. On the far right is the entrance to the sculpture garden. It is guarded by a frog Beefeater.

On the edge of the woods in Harriston, artist Louise Cadney Coleman and her husband own a piece of land, which became home to The Frog Farm, a folk art sculpture garden.  Before it became The Frog Farm, it was called Woodland Court. In addition to her husband’s hunting cabin, on the property was

. . . a low area and frogs do jump around and kids from the community like to come because they like frogs. And they came to me one day and they said to me, ‘Miss Louise, this is not Woodland Court. This is a frog farm. And I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ So I started making frogs, birds, alligators, turtles, and other things to go with that theme. And it’s grown from there.”

That was about 1999. She hopes to expand The Frog Farm one day, possibly to St. Francisville, Louisiana.

Sunbreeze Cafe, inside_even smaller

Two frogs servers prepare the day’s special, fried crickets, at the Sunbreeze Café at The Frog Farm.

Artist Louise Cadney Coleman stands on the walkway in a low area of her Harriston, Mississippi, property.  A natural frog habitat, this area also is a folk art sculpture garden that local children named The Frog Farm.

Artist Louise Cadney Coleman removes a fallen branch from the walkway in a low area of her Harriston, Mississippi, property. A natural frog habitat, this area became the folk art sculpture garden that local children named The Frog Farm.

Penguin Hill_small

“Penguin Hill” is one of The Frog Farm’s attractions. Read more about the attractions in a future post.

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Turtles shaped from found wood are camouflaged on a log.

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In this sculpture, “Woodland Shops,” miniature frog figures pose in front of store fronts that advertise fresh crickets and cool mud for sale.

The Snack Shack and The Frog Nest are two of the structures that Louise Cadney Coleman and her husband have built at The Frog Farm. The Frog Nest houses her studio and showroom.

The Snack Shack and The Frog Nest are two of the structures that Louise Cadney Coleman and her husband have built at The Frog Farm. The Frog Nest houses her studio and showroom.

The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

Click on the following links to read other posts on The Frog Farm: “Introducing The Frog Farm,” and “Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm.”

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Use the form below or email bbatton@msmuseumart.org to comment on this post or to suggest other Mississippi artists for this blog.

Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm

Mudrockers guitarist_even smaller

The guitarist of the Mud Rockers is constantly on stage at The Frog Farm.

Louise Cadney Coleman sculpts whimsical creatures from sticks and tree limbs. Her Frog Farm is a garden of folk art sculptures, mostly of anthropomorphic frogs doing un-amphibian-like things such as playing in a rock band or visiting a tiki bar.

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A frog bartender awaits visitors at the Tiki Bar inside The Frog Farm’s Sunbreeze Café.

Ms. Coleman was born in the small, rural community of Harriston, Mississippi, in the mid-twentieth century, and she grew up there on a hill with her 10 siblings. “We were true country children,” she said.

Scientist and Folk Artist
“I got started as a child making stick dolls,” she explains, “. . . Because there were a lot of us and they were not able to afford all the dolls I wanted, and I was a doll person. So I started making the dolls myself out of sticks, and I made clothes for them, and I gave them names.”

After graduating from high school in Fayette and earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, she was trained as a cytotechnologist (one who studies cells) at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago. She never took any art classes.

Louise CC, tree foliage_cropped, smaller

Louise Cadney Coleman

“Art is natural,” she says. “Science is a learned thing for me . . . If I had known at the time that I could have probably made a living as an artist, I probably would have been an artist all the way. But science is something that I knew I could make a living doing. And that’s the way I went. But then . . . art is my first love.”

After having established her career as a cytotechnologist, she returned to art and began selling her work at art shows and community heritage festivals. One customer in particular, a well travelled man from the Caribbean, saw tremendous creativity and promise in her work and urged her to have a showroom and museum representation. That was the encouragement she needed to indulge her sculpted frogs with an indoor and outdoor space of their own.

small Beefeaters_1800 pixels h

Small beefeater sculptures are for sale inside the “Frog Nest,” which is the showroom and studio of The Frog Farm.

Next time, read about how The Frog Farm got its name and the attractions there. The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

To comment, fill in the form below or email Beth Batton at bbatton@msmuseumart.org.

Dirt Roads Pottery, part two

Sharon Grimes, owner of Dirt Roads Pottery

Sharon Grimes, owner of Dirt Roads Pottery

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.”

A dirt road near the potter's childhood home (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

A dirt road near Sharon Grimes’ childhood home (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

A platter in the "Sand Bar" glaze evokes the earthy, winding path of a dirt road.

A platter in the “Sand Bar” glaze evokes the earthy, winding path of 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.

 

Grimes capitalizes on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs popularity, especially during the football team's successful 2014 season, with paw print ornaments and necklaces.

Grimes capitalizes on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs popularity, especially during the football team’s successful 2014 season, with paw print ornaments and necklaces.

“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.”

Grimes rescues cats, has them spayed and neutered, and cares for them on her pottery compound. (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

Grimes rescues cats, has them neutered, and cares for them on her pottery compound. (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

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.

One of the pottery and jewelry showrooms on the Dirt Roads compound (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

One of the pottery and jewelry showrooms on the Dirt Roads compound (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

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.”

Grimes' initial bracelets

Grimes’ initial bracelets

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.”

Bowls and spoons in Forest Green glaze and a bowl in the Destin Blue glaze

Bowls and spoons in Forest Green glaze and a bowl in the Destin Blue glaze

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.

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Dirt Roads Pottery signature on the back of a Mississippi platter

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.

Sources:

“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.