Firing Delta Clay
Interview by Emily Hector and Hailey McKee
Michael Satterfield, owner and potter of Satterfield's Pottery, explains the textures and colors of his new creations
Holding down the pedal with his foot, the hum of the spinning wheel creates a rhythm as Michael Satterfield pinches, pokes and prods the wet, dark clay.
Satterfield, 33, produces handcrafted pieces for his family-run business, Satterfield’s Pottery, that are 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.
What is 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 Mississippi Delta and his family.
“It’s all symbolic to me and the Delta. 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,” said Satterfield.
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 painting techniques that contribute to the distressed look of the Delta that he wants to illustrate in his pieces.
“I think his pieces sell because his colors are especially unique to his pottery. My favorite pieces are anything with the turquoise color,” said Tommy Cribbs. Cribbs is the 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. 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,” said Satterfield.
Satterfield later pursued a Master of Fine Arts with the intention of becoming a pottery teacher. He never could have predicted what actually happened: he came across a pottery business for sale and bought it on a whim. Since buying the small business, he now runs it with the help of his younger sister, Tara Satterfield.
“I am proud to be doing what I love with someone I love. 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,” said Tara Satterfield.
When it came time to decide on a name for his new pottery company, he drew inspiration from his and Tara’s grandfather, who named the farm after his last name.
“I had my family’s help and support when I was launching this, and that was important to me. 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,” said Satterfield.
Thus, Satterfield’s Pottery came to be. Satterfield takes the time to engrave his family’s name in every piece produced in the studio, rather than using the quicker method of stamping his pieces.
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 that he claims he will never sell. The small amount of wall space not filled with original pottery is reserved for an old-fashioned refrigerator containing Coke products in glass bottles, which Satterfield feels adds to the ambiance of the gallery.
In addition to The Basement Gallery on the Oxford Square, his work can be found in various shops in Mississippi. His pieces are sold in The Wooden Door in Hernando and Olive Branch, The Commons in Cleveland, Katherine Beck in Oxford 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 spread from California to Florida.
“I want Satterfield’s Pottery to be a staple in Oxford,” said Satterfield. “I want it to be an Oxford destination.”
April 21, 2017