Small Business Spotlight: The Mustard Seed, Brandon

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Published: December 5,2010

Tags: Kit Barksdale, The Mustard Seed

Planting a ‘seed’ of hope: Ceramic creations prove hot sellers

The Mustard Seed is funded through corporate, church and individual donations, and last year the clients’ ceramic work garnered more than $150,000.

Sales of the ceramic gifts made by “seedsters” at The Mustard Seed in Brandon help defray costs at the faith-based community while providing an artistic outlet for the clients.

Established in 1981, The Mustard Seed is a community for adults with development disorders. Clients participate in a handbell choir and ceramics programs and some live in the campus’ group homes, including a new women’s home that is set to open in January.

The Mustard Seed is funded through corporate, church and individual donations, and last year the clients’ work garnered more than $150,000.

“If we were a regular business, we wouldn’t last very long, but we’re in the business of caring for people. Part of the care they receive is the art therapy program, and it’s through the art therapy program that we’re able to get back $1 of every $8 it costs to run The Mustard Seed,” said the organization’s executive director Kit Barksdale.

The “seedsters” spend part of their days each week painting ceramics for the community’s gift shop.

“Whatever a sweat shop is, we’re the opposite. We’re like the no-sweat shop,” Barksdale said, noting the flexible schedule followed by the seedsters.

“We never work on Fridays,” she said. That day is reserved for fun with several of the organization’s 2,500 volunteers contributing in some way, whether through Bingo, a birthday bash, exercise or occupational therapy.

Yet, the results of the seedsters work make popular gifts, particularly at Christmas. The colorful, artistic coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, angels and platters are sold in The Mustard Seed Gift Shop and can be found at events like the Brick Streets Fine Arts Festival in Clinton, the Jackson Garden and Patio Show and the Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford. Vendors in the metro area that sell the items include Cups in Flowood, three Citizens National Bank locations and Persnickety in Madison.

Barksdale said each artist has his or her own style, with some seedsters favoring polka dots, geometric shapes or circles.

“We have one lady who paints these beautiful, kind of fluid angels – that’s all she paint. Others paint a symbol that may mean something special to them,” she said. “You can walk through the gift shop and tell whose work belongs to whom. We have some customers who just collect the work of one artist.”

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The mustard Seed

Where: 1085 Luckney Road, Brandon

Website: www.themustardseedinc.org

Hours: The gift shop is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday

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