A Mid-South treasure can be found gracing shelves from New York to Japan and, it's made in Mississippi out of Magnolia State mud.
Deep in the Mississippi Delta behind a stand of bamboo lies a little pathway. It's a fantastical world of secret gardens and not-so-hidden treasures.
Meet Lee McCarty of McCarty pottery.
He's nearly 90 years old and still works everyday in the old mule barn where McCarty Pottery is created.
Doni Harrison tells us, "I learned of it through our daughter-in-law who has almost every piece y'all make."
Retailers have waiting lists for this stuff, but it's the magic of the Delta that has people driving hundreds of miles to Merigold, Mississippi. "It's unique. You can't find it anywhere else," says Harrison.
McCarty pottery is revered for its distinctive glaze and the trademarked squiggly line. That line represents the Mississippi River that flows just a few miles from the pottery barn. Why? It's simple, really. "If you've ever been involved with the Mississippi River you'll always have a connection to it..."
The Earthen art is made in the Delta from Delta clay and passed down from generation to generation. "This particular batch is actually from Louisville," says Jamie Smith.
McCarty is a World War II Veteran and scientist who used his background in chemistry to develop the distinctive glazes that set this pottery apart. "The main trademark is nutmeg color with the Mississippi River running into it," Lee McCarty.
Today he crafts jewelry while nephew Jamie Smith creates the signature line of serving pieces, bowls and plates. Every creation has a connection. The rabbits, playful squirrels and other creatures immortalized in clay were inspired by real critters that frolic in the series of outdoor rooms outside the old mule barn-turned-art gallery.
The link to nature, inspired by a love of beauty, "that's what I intended to do: surround myself and my children with as much enviable beauty as I could possibly attain..."
Many of the plants are treasures. Like the glowing persimmon - one of three trees given to the McCartys by the Emperor of Japan.
Their journey started and ends in Mississippi but, back in the day, 1949, to be exact, this artistic couple took New York City by storm. Lee got his masters at Columbia. His late wife, Pup, modeled for a Chesterfield cigarette ad.
The pottery was a fluke, something that developed when Pup took a class at Ole Miss.
That's where they made a connection with Nobel Prize winning novelist William Faulkner. "He was wonderful, often misrepresented in the press."
The first McCarty pottery was crafted from mud behind the writer's Oxford home, Rowan Oak.
"It was wonderful clay, containing Mica. Mrs. McCarty made several bowls..." That was some 70 years ago. Today, Lee McCarty still lives above the mule barn. His hands and feet firmly planted in the delta dirt. Though he has traveled around the world, Merigold, Mississippi has always been in his heart. "I always said, 'this is not for me, I'm going home.'"
For the McCartys and for us: their Merigold, Mississippi home is where the art is.
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