Ridgeland — As she approaches 25 years in the business of designing and creating signature pottery, Gail Pittman looks both to the future and the past. The company that began on Pittman’s kitchen table is making changes to introduce new lines and colors, take on casino decorating projects and work with Habitat for Humanity to provide homes for Hancock County hurricane victims.
“There are a lot of things we’re working on that we’re not ready to reveal,” Pittman said. “We’re making some strategic changes. That’s the way business grows and this will be 25 years since we started. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities.”
As she takes the business to a new level, Pittman is pleased to be creative director for Southern Living Home. She also found a niche by creating decorative enhancements for Caesar’s Casino in Las Vegas and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. She recently returned from Atlantic City where she is considering a project for Trump Properties. She hopes to again be affiliated with Beau Rivage when the hurricane-damaged casino reopens.
“We’ve also provided a lot of corporate work, and I hope that part of the business will continue to grow,” she added.
Leo Hines, director of sales and marketing, says corporate people are looking for something different for gifting. “They want quality, something different that can be given in a grouping and added to over years,” he said. “We have national representatives who market this service for us and some companies call us on their own.”
On the retail side, Hines said Gail Pittman pottery is now sold in about 400 retail outlets nationwide and still opening new locations. However, they are cautious. Specialty stores are where their wares are best displayed and where shoppers first see new trends and styles.
“We focus on the right stores,” he said. “We’re selective and don’t want to be just anywhere.”
He acknowledges that big box stores, imitators and imports are all over, making it imperative for creative companies to catch new trends and stay ahead of the pack. The marketplace is also asking for new price points. Responding to changing times and tastes, Gail Pittman has introduced new designs and colors. Free-form pottery and solid colors were introduced last year and art glazes are the latest thing. The glazes are hand applied just as Gail Pittman patterns are hand painted.
“To stay fresh, we have to change with the market. The art glazes are a new thing for Gail. They have an unusual look. The colors react with each other and these pieces blend with the pattern pieces,” Hines said. “These pieces and colors appeal to the younger crowd who like to mix patterns and colors.”
The blending of new and old Gail Pittman pieces is good for retailers who can sell more of new products along with products already in the marketplace. This blending prevents products from being cordoned off to themselves. Hines says the response has been tremendous.
Pittman says she has to respond to current trends and what people want. “Younger people like different things. It’s almost like it’s going full circle but they don’t know that,” she said. “The more earthy browns and golds are back. The colors we called harvest gold, avocado and poppy red are popular again.”
However, the designer/artist doesn’t just follow the crowd. She takes each look and makes it her own, finding it’s fun to explore and see where it goes. Big colors in hand-painted pottery now include turquoise and other blues, reds, golds, and lime green – colors relating to nature.
The three new patterns are Horizon with a multi-color strip effect; Sky with a bluish, brownish scroll design around the edge; and Earth with reddish earth tone scrolls. Best of all, the three patterns work nicely with each other.
Creatively, Pittman says she is inspired by everything she sees. “I spend a lot of time in the marketplace and hear what people want,” she said. “I look at great styles of the past because real style stays around. I like to research the past and apply it to today.”
She is also inspired by the many cultures of the world and recently attended a huge design show in Frankfurt, Germany.
“We continue on with the work we’re doing and never know what the next day holds,” she said. “It has always been so heart warming the way people receive us. It’s a real treat to go somewhere and say I’m from Mississippi. I continue to be overwhelmed by the response I get.”
Her work with Habitat for Humanity helps to keep attention on the plight of families suffering from the disaster that struck Mississippi last August. Pittman partnered with the metro Jackson Habitat organization to offer pottery pieces for sale on the internet to benefit residents of Hancock County. All profits from sales of the Hope and Future patterns go to assist this hard-hit area.
“Working with Habitat, along with what we’ve done with the Salvation Army and Red Cross, has been very rewarding,” she said. “To date, $70,000 has been raised. That’s just a drop in the bucket but it keeps people’s eyes on us and that’s important.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.