Cathy and Kenny Gregory spent countless hours in the pottery department at the Fine Arts building when they were students at Mississippi College in the early 1980s.
Neither was an art major. Cathy was studying music and Kenny was pursuing a degree in pastoral ministries.
But they were young and newly married with a baby in tow, and they didn’t have a lot of money. So they’d go to the Fine Arts building and make pottery for family members as Christmas gifts.
“I was the one with the pottery bug,” said Kenny, 51. “I took classes in high school and college.”
After graduation, the couple went on to have what Kenny calls “real” lives for 20 years. Cathy taught music at Ingomar and Kenny drove a truck.
“But there’s something about working with clay,” said Cathy, 50. “Once you start, it gets in your blood. There’s just something about the smell of a clay shop.”
And then 11 years ago, in September 1999, Kenny decided to quit his job and make pottery for a living.
And Broken Vessel Pottery was born.
Initially, the Gregorys’ living room in their home at Ingomar was their showroom. They cleared out a bookcase and filled it with platters, vases, bowls and some of Cathy’s one-of-a-kind pieces.
“I’d make a piece and say, ‘I’m going to keep this one,’ and I’d come home and it’d be gone. He’d sold it. He’d say, ‘The price was too good.’ I think he would have sold me if he’d had the chance,” Cathy said, laughing.
The couple started out with two colors: Antique Iron and Blue Monday.
“And then the blues went out and other colors came in,” said Cathy, who retired from teaching full time in 2009. “We did hunter green. We added a new color every year up until three years ago. We had so many we couldn’t keep a full line of every color.”
At first, Broken Vessel Pottery was available only to wholesalers, who would drive to the Gregorys’ home and pick up their goods. Today, the pottery is available at 15 gift and specialty shops across Northeast Mississippi.
Early on, the stoneware pottery featured crosses on platters, mugs and trays, and many of the pieces made today still feature the distinctive motif. And right from the start, the pottery was functional.
“Every piece was user-friendly,” said Kenny. “We had a professor who preached that to us in college – not to use lead. They’re all safe for the microwave, oven and dishwasher.”
Kenny does most of the wheel-work while Cathy does handmade pieces and the glazing. Amanda Gibson, a student at Northeast Mississippi Community College, also works at the shop when she can.
“Kenny may start a piece but I’m usually the one that finishes it or Amanda may decorate it,” Cathy said. “Many hands may go into one piece of work.”
Cross platters, candle trays and scripture slabs are the best-selling items today, but the line also includes cake stands, goblets, bean pots, soap dispensers and dinnerware.
“One of the hottest things we have going right now are baby hand imprints,” Kenny said. “This stuff runs in cycles and we have to try and chase the cycles.”
The most popular glaze color is Waterfall Brown.
“Probably 75 percent of our product is in Waterfall Brown,” Cathy said. “It’s my favorite color.”
Classes resume in August
Five or six years ago, the couple began offering classes at their studio to bring in extra income.
“We were here anyway and it’s a change of pace,” Kenny said. “The social interaction is nice.”
The six-week classes, which will resume in August, meet two nights a week for two hours each and the cost is $350, which includes tools, supplies and instruction. Or, you can pay by the night for $35 a class. They usually take only two to three students per class.
“And then the students usually work here for us for a time,” Cathy said. “We’ve put 22 to 25 employees through this system since we began, including Amanda.”
The Gregorys are hoping that one day, one of those students might be their 2-year-old granddaughter, Brielle.
“Our daughter has asthma so she can’t be around all the dust,” Kenny said. “We’re hoping Brielle will be the next potter in the family. All this can be hers one day if she’s interested.”
The recent downturn in the economy has taken its toll on the business, but the couple is pressing on.
“Making pottery isn’t like buying a candle,” Cathy said. “You buy a candle, you burn it and you go out and buy another candle. With pottery, unless you break it, you don’t need to replace it.”
Kenny estimates they make more than 100 bowls for the Salvation Army’s annual Empty Bowls Luncheon on Ash Wednesday in Tupelo, and year before last, they made the angels for the Sanctuary Hospice House to sell.
“You can’t spend all your time working for causes,” Kenny said, “but these are two ministries we really believe in.”
Broken Vessel Pottery
- Where: From Highway 78 at New Albany, go south on Highway 15 for five miles. Turn right onto CR 96. Go about a mile and Broken Vessel Pottery is on the right.
■ When: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday by chance or appointment.
■ What: Pottery gift shop, studio and
- Other : The pottery is also available at
gift shops in Tupelo, Pontotoc, New Albany,
Booneville, Saltillo, Amory, Calhoun City,
Houston, West Point, Ripley, Hickory Flat,
Taylor, Nettleton and Holly Springs.
- Info: Call (662) 534-3814 or write
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal