Breaking the MoldA look inside a local pottery business that draws inspiration from the Delta and family roots
WORDS AND PHOTO BY HAILEY MCKEE
Michael Satterfield pinches, pokes and prods the wet, dark clay to the rhythmic hum of the spinning wheel, shaping another handcrafted piece to sell for his family-run business, Satterfield’s Pottery.
Satterfield, 33, makes pieces inspired by his past. Since the company’s beginning in 2012, Satterfield has created handmade lines of dishwasher, microwave, and oven-safe stoneware that are high-fired and finished in glazes unique to his studio and his deep Mississippi Delta roots. Even more special than the physical appearance of his pottery and his gallery is the meaning behind each piece he creates. Satterfield incorporates two aspects of his personal life into each piece he crafts: the Delta and his family.
“It’s all symbolic to me and the Delta,” he says. “When someone gets this gift made from the Mississippi clay, it puts a smile on someone’s face. It’s a little treasure that someone can take home and keep for a lifetime.”
When Satterfield’s Pottery began, Satterfield wanted his work to reflect the look of the Mississippi Delta by using distinctive clay and glazes. Satterfield strives for his pieces to be as natural as possible, so he uses clay from a crystal-clear creek on the edge of his property. After shaping and firing clay in the kiln, he selects glazes and uses distressed painting techniques to represent the Delta.
“I think his pieces sell because his colors are especially unique to his pottery. My favorite pieces are anything with the turquoise color,” says Tommy Cribbs, owner of The Basement Gallery at the Frame Up in Oxford, which was the first store to sell Satterfield’s Pottery in 2013.
Growing up with his hands in the dirt, Satterfield discovered his passion for working with clay at a young age. His grandfather owned and operated Satterfield Farms in the Delta, which was eventually passed down to his father. However, once Satterfield began to take creative classes at Delta State University, he traded agriculture for art.
“My family just wanted me to get a degree and go back to the farm,” he says. “I was a business major. One day I found out my little daughter was on the way. It hit me I had nine months to finish up school, and at that point, I realized it was time to get serious.”
Satterfield later pursued a fine arts master’s with the intention of becoming a pottery teacher. But when a pottery business came up for sale, he bought it on a whim and now runs it with the help of his younger sister, Tara.
“I am proud to be doing what I love with someone I love,” Tara says. “No matter what Michael puts his mind to, he accomplishes it. The closeness between us makes everything work out so well, and it creates a really fun atmosphere.”
When it came time to decide on a name for his new pottery company, he drew inspiration from their grandfather.
“I had my family’s help and support when I was launching this, and that was important to me,” Michael says. “With my family’s farm in the Delta, it’s always been ‘Satterfield,’ and it worked for my business too. I don’t think it would have been any other way.”
Thus, Satterfield’s Pottery came to be. Michael even takes the time to hand-engrave his family’s name in every piece produced in the studio, rather than stamping them to save time.
Shelves in Satterfield’s gallery are divided by each of his original collections: gumbo, indigo, river bottom, Hotty Toddy, pistachio, and creamstout. He devotes the last wall to his favorite one-of-a-kind pieces he says he will never sell.
In addition to The Basement Gallery and Katherine Beck on the Square, his work can be found in various shops in Mississippi, including The Wooden Door in Hernando and Olive Branch, The Commons in Cleveland and The Crown in Indianola.
Outside of Mississippi, he produces an exclusive, dark green duck for Lansky’s gift shop in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. His pieces are also displayed in the Ogden Museum of Art in New Orleans. His creations have ended up in houses and galleries that span the country.
“I want Satterfield’s Pottery to be a staple in Oxford,” he says. “I want it to be an Oxford destination.”