“I was born and raised here, and I want to bring people to Mount Bayou because of the history,” Peter Woods says of his storied hometown founded in 1887 by former slaves as a self-reliant, self-governed and all-black community. He has spent the last two decades drawing attention to his beloved hometown of fewer than 2,000 people, where many of the local businesses in the once-thriving town are long gone, sadly. He tells us, “Twenty-one years ago, we started Peter’s Pottery with the thought of giving back to the community — starting here, where we were born and raised.”
Peter’s Pottery is a family-run pottery studio utilizing Mississippi mud, rich clay soil from Columbus and Louisville, Mississippi, to create functional and beautiful custom pieces of pottery in rich earth tones of the Mississippi Delta. “We use clay that is unique to the Delta, so the stoneware is microwave safe, oven safe and dishwasher safe. And it doesn’t crack or chip as easily,” explains Peter. Some 500 bowls, animal figurines, dinnerware, pitchers, platters and vases in colors like Dogwood Brown, Dirty Jade, Bayou Blue and Cotton White are on display in the studio’s showroom, which was added to the original 4,000-square-foot workspace and 10-foot-by-17-foot shop.
Peter started throwing pottery at the age of 13. He worked for a local artist and earned a degree from Delta State University before opening the studio with his three brothers — Joseph, Arthur and Sandy — in 1998. Two of the four brothers have passed away, but Peter and Sandy continue to run the business with their sister, nieces and nephews. The family members handcraft each pottery piece sold in the studio, online and in stores across the South, and new pieces are introduced each year. This year’s additions include a rabbit for the brothers’ sister, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and a dessert plate that was released in December.
Peter believes customers are pleasantly surprised by how the work is displayed in the showroom; the intricacy and detail work on each piece (specifically the animals and vases) can best be appreciated in-person. But for those unable to take a trip to the “unassuming building on the west edge of the small town,” pieces are available for purchase through phone and at a handful of regional retailers, including The Mississippi Gift Company (Greenwood, MS), The Olive Branch (Clinton, MS), Blooms (Hattiesburg, MS), La Di Da (Canton, MS) and Talk of the Town (Batesville, MS).
The original pottery building was built on land owned by a Woods brother, and he asked to be included in the Mound Bayou city limits so the sales tax could benefit the local economy. Additionally, the brothers show their commitment to the community by providing four yearly scholarships to local high school students, as well as hosting a yearly fundraiser for St. Jude. Peter, whose son is a patient of St. Jude, opens his home for the $50-a-ticket event and has raised more than $12,000 in the last two years.
Peter’s Pottery introduced an international customer base to a small town and draws folks from across Mississippi and the region while continuing its commitment to bettering the community. Mayor Eulah Peterson acknowledges the Woods brothers for “creating an opportunity for people around the world to know about Mound Bayou and bringing a positive experience to the city.”
“We are a family-run business, and we are just thankful to our customers for supporting us over the years,” Peter says humbly before returning to his day-to-day work at the studio.
Peter’s Pottery storefront is located at 301 Fortune Ave, Mound Bayou, MS 38762. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (SB TIP: The studio hosts its annual Crack and Chip Sale on March 3, 2020.) Learn more about this treasured Southern business at facebook.com/PetersPottery.
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