Midnite Pottery got its name because it was started by family members who had full-time jobs, and took up pottery making with a passion that left them often working until midnight or later.
“My brother, Dean Webb, started the business,” said Midnite Pottery owner Jennifer Shelton. “He had just taken a pottery lesson. He didn’t really have a hobby. He loved it. He was a banker at that time, and I did interior design. Shortly after he opened the business, I joined him working out there. Neither of us had ever worked in clay before. Since we both had other jobs, we would often go out and work late at night to do the pottery. We do still have to live up to that name sometimes when we have a lot of orders or a show.”
The business started in an old horse barn in Eggville. As the business started growing, their mom, Verna Cayson, joined them and they built a studio in that area. Later they decided to move to the present location on one of Tupelo’s main streets, North Gloster, in order to have better visibility.
Both tourists and locals alike find their way to watch pottery being made at the studio, and pick up a unique, handmade stoneware pottery item as a gift or for personal use.
“Thank goodness the business has become pretty recognized,” Shelton said. “We have people who travel to specifically come to our studio. But we are very fortunate to have a good customers base of local people and businesses who shop with us. We really have the best of both worlds.”
The hometown connections helped. Dean and Jennifer both grew up in Tupelo. Locals have known them for years, and they value buying something unique made by someone they know as opposed to pottery stamped “Made in China.”
While some of the pottery is primarily ornamental, the majority is functional. That includes food-safe pottery that people enjoy using to prepare and serve food.
The shapes are often funky and unusual.
“People who walk in are wowed by what they see,” Shelton said. “We offer something you just have to come into any store and see. I think the other thing is we love our customers. When they come in, they get to watch us make pottery. They ask all kinds of questions. We take the time to give good customer service. I just feel very fortunate I get to get up every day, and do something with my hands that is a creative process. When you love what you do, it shows in your business. Everyone who works here loves their job. It really shows. The things we are making here will be around 100 years from now. They will become heirlooms.”
Shelton’s brother and mother have retired from the business. Currently she has one full-time employee, Amanda Autrey and two part-time employees, Anna Merritt Roberts and Reid White.
Shelton got married about a year ago, and her husband, Mark, an attorney, also helps out at the shop. Both Sheltons are artists, and do paintings and other custom work. Together they have three 13-year-old sons, Jennifer’s twins and Mark’s son.
“Between our three sons and work, time is maxed out,” Shelton said. “I do a lot of commission work with paintings. We used to do a ton of shows. We don’t do that much any more, although we are going to do the Gumtree Festival again this year.”
Crosses in Midnite Pottery design are particularly popular. People often buy those for baby, wedding and sympathy gifts.
Most of their business is at the site of their studio, but they also have an online shop. Their website includes a coupon to get ten percent off anything in stock.
In addition to colorful and creative styles, people appreciate that the pottery is reasonably priced.
“Especially in this day and time with the economy, people appreciate any type of break they get,” Shelton said. “We also do children’s handprints. That is probably our best thing we do. It is very popular.”
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