Satterfield Pottery

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by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace

Michael Satterfield grew up farming in the Delta, so he’s used to working hard. He went to Delta State University and was supposed to study business to eventually return to the farm, but took art classes as his electives – because he enjoyed the classes, not for an “easy A,” he said. Well, when he found out his daughter, Presley, now 12, was on the way, he buckled down and got serious. He met with his advisor to plan a course of action.

“‘I don’t know what to do, but I’ve got nine months to get a degree,’” he remembers telling his advisor. 

Looking at the courses Satterfield had completed, his only option was to get a degree in sculpture; he laughed at how ridiculous it seemed at the time, and it would require passing 30 hours of courses over the next semester, which he did, and earned all A’s. He would go on to move to Colorado for a stint, but ultimately found himself in Oxford, completing his Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Mississippi. With that, he wanted to teach.

There in Oxford, the school district paired him to work one-on-one with an autistic student, an opportunity Satterfield said taught him a lot about patience. Knowing that he had his masters in fine arts, they asked Satterfield to take over a grant project to create a pottery studio for the kids. Once a pot was completed, the kids would use it as a planter, place a seed in it and grow a plant.

“Take clay, make a pot, put the plant in it, sell it,” he said. “Then they’re able to make something with their hands, but they’re also engaging with customers or just people one-on-one.”

While he had thrown pottery before, he was mostly interested in sculpting. So he went out and got books on pottery, “I just started reading and trying to teach myself how to make pottery to teach the kids.” And it rippled from there – but not without a lot more hard work.

Satterfield Pottery

Satterfield bought a farm on the outskirts of Oxford to set up shop, and really devoted himself to his pottery. But eventually, he found himself trapped in the typical struggling artist motif, “broke as a joke.”
“I remember sometimes I didn’t have gas to put in my truck,” he said.

His mother, once while visiting, told him he needed to do something.

“‘You put all your money into all this clay and all this glaze, you need to advertise to sell it – you need to make money,’” he remembers her saying.

Satterfield explained if he could just make it to the Mississippi Market, if he could just give it his all until then, then if he couldn’t make it as an artist, “I’ll do whatever the heck you want me to do and just be done.”

He loaded up all the pottery he had in Rubbermaid bins, and made his way to Jackson on a wing and a prayer, with just enough money for gas, but not a hotel room. By the time he got to market, he had 43 cents left.

For the next three days, he had “a line out of my booth,” and made $50,000 in sales. He went back to Oxford, and started making wholesale orders for retailers.

That was about nine years ago, and since then, with a lot more blood, sweat and tears, Satterfield Pottery has come a long way. The barn, which used to be a stable barn, was refinished by Satterfield himself, and now includes a gallery for his pieces, and is open to the public. There, visitors can see the different colors Satterfield offers, spanning from Creamstout (his most popular), Gumbo, Pistachio, River Bottom, Indigo, a special Hotty Toddy color scheme, and his newest release, Pattina.

Satterfield was very particular when it came to selecting his brand’s colors. It’s no secret that Mississippi already has some pottery moguls – in fact, Satterfield once worked for McCarty’s as a sales representative way back before he even considered pottery, when he was sculpting at Delta State – so when choosing his colors, he picked options that would work in tandem to “create a compatible palette” with the pottery Mississippians already own.

That was one factor in choosing to make Oxford his brand’s home base: that part of the state doesn’t have a potter, and “I didn’t want to be right there with McCarty and Peter, I wanted to be in Oxford.”

Along with his daughter living in Oxford, “I want to be here to watch my daughter grow up,” the town’s entertainment options were far more appealing to him.

“For me, growing up there (in the Delta), it’s just flat land and farming, it’s just fields,” he said. “There’s a lot of that history, but here I can never run out of things to do.”

Another way he sets his work apart is his use of recycled glass, which creates deep blue and aqua pools in the bottom of his pieces. Aside from the Creamstout coloring, he said this is probably the biggest signifier that a piece is a Satterfield’s.

Mississippi’s pottery climate has also shaped the pieces Satterfield offers, and not just the colors. Since setting up shop, he says his dinnerware has really taken off. Aside from being the sole dinnerware at certain restaurants, like renowned chef Austin Sumrall’s White Pillars in Biloxi, he credits this to wedding registries, and people avoiding long wait lists. Additionally, in Satterfield’s gallery, visitors can find something no matter their price range, as his prices run from about $15 to around $250, with a few outliers (like his large nativity set, which includes 13 pieces for $800).

Looking Ahead through the Trees: Three Pines

Growing up and while at Delta State, Satterfield remembers a best friend and football teammate who heavily influenced his decision to become an artist: John Meyer. One summer, while Satterfield was heading out to Colorado, he convinced Meyer to come with him. They stayed at a campsite, Three Pines. 

While Satterfield was able to chase his newfound dream of being an artist, Meyer returned to the farm and built a family. After going their separate ways in life, they were reunited. Satterfield and Meyer came together to create a collaborative special edition they would call Three Pines Pottery. 

“It’s me wanting to do this with my friend and knowing how good he is and seeing the excitement,” he said. “Looking at him is like how I was when I first started, I kept telling him, ‘You got to stay right there. Stay right there.’ He’s so excited.”

This special edition of pottery is the perfect way for Satterfield to show his friend gratitude for introducing him to the world of art, plus these two best friends get to creatively collaborate once again. One key element to Three Pines’ pieces is the turn marks – the grooves on the piece, created using a tool on the wheel. 

Getting Down on the Pharm

Satterfield, his wife Teresa, 8-year-old son Cruz, and soon-to-be Gretchen, who will be joining the crew in October, all live in the quarters adjacent to the gallery. On the other side of Satterfield’s gallery is a newly renovated event venue, the Pharmhouse. This was added on to host different events, like live music, as Satterfield plays the drums in his band, Pharm Truck. All the “ph’s” are in reference to Teresa’s favorite rock band, Phish; and the repetition of farm because he’s deeply rooted in farming. He laughs with his relatives that they’re “harvesting crops, and I’m harvesting pots.”

The venue is set up for any slew of events, from kids’ birthday parties and bridal showers, even to wedding receptions. It has a bar – which they currently refer to as the buffet bar, while working to secure a permit for alcoholic beverages. 

“You get to the wacky pottery shop, and then you’re able to get a treasure from your trip to take it home, and that’s really what I want. I’ve got the old-fashioned Coca-Cola bottles. Now, we’ve got this going on,” he said gesturing to the Pharmhouse.

Satterfield credits his grandfather’s success story to curating his own work ethic and determination. 

“I saw a guy that grew up with dirt floors, created an empire, and I was raised by that,” he said about his grandfather. “I have bigger plans than this, but I’m slowly realizing that it just takes time. It takes time and it takes money, and you’ve got this vision – this idea, but you have got to just, you know, you’ve got to get there.”

 

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