By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE SPRINGS – There’s no telling where a little curiosity can take someone.
Tracy Wilson and her husband, Craig, made their livings as dog trainers. They ran Poplar Ridge Retrievers in the kudzu-coated wilds of Pontotoc County, about two miles south of the Toyota property line.
She got an urge to take a pottery course, so she signed up, only to have that class canceled. This was around 2006, and she didn’t give up, eventually landing with Keith Carpenter at Beans Ferry Pottery.
“He’s a good teacher,” Craig Wilson, 57, said.
“He’s an excellent teacher,” she said.
The Wilsons bought a pottery wheel and a kiln to support what was still a hobby. Tracy Wilson, 55, started with utilitarian pieces, then experimented with ways to decorate her work.
“She came up with her own process to make the leaf imprint really pop out,” Craig Wilson said. “It was a mix of stain and glaze. We put it in the kiln and it came out just beautiful.
“Your sister …,” his wife said.
“My sister came out,” he said, “and she bought five off the bat. She motivated us. She said, ‘Y’all should sell these things.'”
Poplar Ridge Pottery was born. Now the pair make half of their living by training dogs and the other half by selling pottery. Craig Wilson handles the dogs in the morning, then he joins his wife in the garage to add detail work to the mugs, bowls, plates and vases that she creates.
“It’s a lot of trial and error. We go through a learning curve,” he said. “Sometimes what you’re trying works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s very exciting to me.”
They’ve become amateur botanists, scanning their property for distinctive leaves. Theirs is a one-to-one process; every leaf imprint comes from a single leaf, rather than a mold. This time of year they collect extra leaves to store in a deep freeze for use throughout the winter.
Their signature piece is what they call a carved vase, and it looks as though trees grow on the vase, which has holes cut out that accentuate clay oak leaves.
“The way they came about is …” Tracy Wilson prompted.
“I had an accident. I cut into the pot and put a hole in there,” he said.
“He kept working on it for hours and hours,” she said.
“I didn’t want to throw it away. I wanted to see what would happen,” he said.
They travel to about 20 arts and craft shows a year, including Tupelo’s GumTree Festival. That means plenty of work together in the garage. What started with Tracy Wilson’s curiosity has become a true team effort.
“I couldn’t do it without her,” he said, “and she – I want to say – couldn’t do it without me.”
“You’re the wind beneath my wings,” she said.
“Good one,” he said.