Mississippi Arts & Crafts
Scattered across Mississippi are artist’s studios and galleries that hold a trove of one-of-a-kind treasures. Displaying everything from paintings of shrimp boats docked along the coast to pottery fashioned by hand in a former mule barn, they showcase a wealth of home-grown talent.
Arts & Crafts in Ridgeland
The Mississippi Crafts Centre is a state-of-the-art facility displaying a range of traditional and contemporary Mississippi crafts created by artisans extraordinaire. Rarely do you get a chance to watch artists at work, so seeing craftsmen demonstrate their specialities at the Mississippi Craft Centre, just off the Natchez Trace Parkway in Ridgeland MS, comes as a treat. Demonstrations take place on weekends and range from blacksmithing to quilting and woodworking. Original works by dozens of artists line the shelves and walls in the Craft Centre.
Jackson Street Gallery in Ridgeland showcases painting, sculpture, art glass and jewellery by more than 70 Mississippi artists. Included are picture-perfect still life paintings by Kathy Brombacher and Ellen Dudley, and colourful, quirky folk art on roofing paper by Lenore Barkley.
Arts & Crafts in Merigold
McCarty's Pottery in the tiny Delta community of Merigold, just north of Cleveland MS, has no road signs pointing the way. In fact, McCarty’s has no sign at all, just a pole outside with coloured streamers that gently sway in the wind. Even the building itself appears humble; it was, after all, a mule barn before Lee McCarty and his wife, Pup, turned it into their studio. Inside, pottery of every size and shape, from platters and dinnerware to lamps and garden urns, fills the warren of rooms. The colours run from nutmeg brown to cobalt blue and jade, and the distinctive trademark, a black wavy line that represents the Mississippi River, usually appears descending from the rim.
Arts & Crafts in Tupelo
Another studio worth finding is Bean’s Ferry Pottery that sits amid the hills which roll gently through the north-eastern corner of the state. Stop at the Welcome Centre on US 78 near Tupelo for directions to the small building that sits off the main highway and at the end of a gravel drive. Keith Carpenter, who started making pottery a decade ago, often leaves it to his son Chris to greet visitors. Chatting with the younger potter is as refreshing as a glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day. He makes the platters and other hand-built pieces, including the pottery’s signature Santa figures in the shapes of different states, while his dad prefers to create bowls and vases on the potter’s wheel. Colours include blue, green, purple and yellow. But it’s the deep red glaze that sets this pottery apart.
Arts & Crafts in Greenwood
Other places, such as Dudley Pleasants backyard in Greenwood, Mississippi, defy the traditional idea of either studio or art. Dudley makes bottle trees out of iron rods. Celebrated in the fiction of Eudora Welty, the bottle tree originated in Africa, where glass objects were hung on trees to trap evil spirits. Even if they don’t foil spirits, the iron trees, adorned with bottles that range from shades of blue through every other colour in the rainbow, make wonderful conversation pieces. They also add a delightful touch of sculpture to the Southern garden.