Exploring Art

Pawing for pottery

By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography by Adam Mitchell

A love of animals and a fascination for color glazes inspired Amy Harrison to create Muddy Mae Pottery.

Take one rural Mississippi hillside, mix with one miniature Australian Shepherd, and add an artist’s hand. The result? A budding business called Muddy Mae Pottery driven by owner Amy Harrison’s creative mind. Her studio sits on her quiet property located in the Longtown community west of Como, Mississippi.
Harrison hails originally from Lafayette, Louisiana, but moved to Mississippi with her family as a young girl. When she talks about her creative pursuits, her conversations include her late father. Harrison strolls her studio, pointing out the tools and woodworking equipment she learned to use.
“My dad was good with wood and definitely my early inspiration. He showed me tools and how to use them,” she remembers.
Long before pottery, she began working with wood and tin, making picture frames and crosses and establishing a solid local business. Over time, she toyed with the idea of pottery.
“I took a continuing education night class at Northwest Community College and learned how to make bowls out of forms and not on a wheel,” she says. Despite her introduction to the art more than eight years ago, Harrison couldn’t quite convince herself to move ahead. “I liked it but it’s expensive, and I wasn’t sure I’d be any good at it. A kiln costs about $6,000 so I put it on the back burner for a while and kept doing my woodworking.”
A few years later, she decided to set up a slab, wheel, and kiln. She secured a small business loan and decided to go ahead and try her talents. “I’m still no good with a wheel,” she says with a laugh. Harrison hand builds her clay pieces, molding interesting shapes into small dishes, trays, and platters. Her Mississippi-shaped pieces are some of her most popular sellers, along with any pieces imprinted with collegiate emblems.
In a short time, Harrison has developed her own style and signature glazes that set her work apart. She plays with color mixtures to yield earth tones and cool blues that blend much like an artist’s palette. Another past pursuit, using a decal machine, gave her an idea that clients love about her pottery.
“I was lying in bed one night wondering if a vinyl letter would stick to clay enough that I could paint over it and peel it off. I literally got out of bed and tried it,” she remembers.
Not only did the idea work, but the practice led her to using dry wood blocks to imprint and stamp the clay with patterns and textures. She employs this technique on the outer bands of select bowls and platters.
Still learning, Harrison’s critical eye keeps her humble about her talents. “When it came to firing and glazing, I knew I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says.

She explains that making pottery involves a three-to-four-step process and a couple of weeks to complete a custom piece. And the learning curve hasn’t been without loss or setbacks. She and her husband built her enclosed studio from an existing open metal building located on the property. The kiln is located in a large barn just across the yard.
“I was making about 20 million trips back and forth, carrying the pottery,” she says. “We tried putting it all on a cart and pushing it over the ground and it all broke! It’s pretty fragile prior to being fired.”
Because many of her pieces are for the kitchen, Harrison worked until she could produce food-safe pottery. She continually plays with the glazes and colors. “Glaze is very temperamental,” she explains. Several pieces, that she views as less than successful, sit in her studio. To the casual observer, the pieces appear just as beautiful as those in the shops, but not to her discriminating eye.
“I have an expectation of what the colors will look like. When a piece comes out flat or too dark or different, it’s not what I had in mind,” Harrison says. Her pieces also mix different materials as she incorporates small pottery pieces like a bird or cross onto wood.
Where does the dog come in? Everywhere. Her buddy, Muddy Mae, follows her around with the other Australian Shepherds living with the family. Living on a farm deemed Dusty Dog Ridge, Harrison had no doubts about what to name her business.
“I got Mae two days before my dad died and she got me through some tough stuff.” Mae even gets to leave her mark on each piece. “Every piece has the small imprinted paw print on the back of it.” An animal lover, Harrison donates a portion of her proceeds to local shelters and rescue groups.
Muddy Mae Pottery can be found on Facebook and Etsy as well as in local retail shops, including these in Mississippi: Miller’s Station, Senatobia; Cynthia’s Boutique, Hernando; Crossroads, Olive Branch; and Sugar Magnolia, Oxford. Harrison accepts occasional wholesale orders and creates signature custom pieces for businesses and individuals.

For information, send her an email at
muddymaepottery@gmail.com.

Read More in DeSoto Magazine online.