There are lots of things I love to collect, but there is nothing I treasure more than my McCarty Pottery collection. Like most Mississippi brides, I registered for my favorite pieces of McCarty when I got married. The first piece I received was from Gwen Hiatt; a soup tureen with a bird on top. It’s funny, when you love collections like this, you never forget the people behind them or the occasion associated with them. That piece is still one of my favorites in my collection. McCarty Pottery isn’t the most beautiful pottery ever created. I’ve got other pieces from artists that I think are more beautiful. But the functionality and the simple form of McCarty is what makes it appealing to me.
Most of my first pieces were brown, which I have heard called nutmeg or tea, but I lost them when I moved to Minneapolis with my new husband in 1993. He learned quickly how important McCarty is to me when I sat crying in the floor of our home as I unpacked the pieces that were broken on the cross-country move. He’s encouraged me to restock my collection since then, and appreciates its sentimental value to me.
There is nothing more fun than making a trip to the McCarty’s home and studio in Merigold, MS. It’s in the middle of the Delta near Cleveland, and the studio is tucked into a bamboo forest right in the middle of town. The gardens and pool disguise what was once the mule barn that became the McCarty’s home and studio in 1954 when they moved home from New York to care for Mr. McCarty’s mother.
They create animals like fish, birds, owls, pigs, squirrels, and hippos. I love the birds and have big ones and small ones, mostly gifts from friends. There is nothing commercial about them. They are simple and raw. While the nutmeg and jade are probably my favorite colors of McCarty, I went through a period of collecting the blue when I worked at Ole Miss and spent more time in the Grove.
Like most collections, McCarty Pottery can become an obsession. When I see that plain brown paper bag with the McCarty signature on it, I get giddy! I told my NAJA friends that I was excited about receiving my NAJA President’s scrapbook more than I could imagine, until I saw the McCarty bag waiting beside it at the banquet where my friends presented me with the most beautiful McCarty platter you’ve ever seen!
There is nothing that says “Mississippi” to me more than McCarty. Nothing that brings me more joy than looking up above my cabinets and seeing that rough Mississippi mud that is shaped in such a unique form. Collections should do that for you…remind you of places you’ve been and people you’ve loved. The McCarty’s of Merigold have certainly done that for me.