Just east of the Ocean Springs Harbor, nestled and tucked in a coastal wooded area of Shearwater Drive rests a mixture of rustic sheds and vintage clay throwing wheels known as Shearwater Pottery.
There isn’t much in the way of signage but once you’ve coiled down the tree-canopied driveway you’re greeted by a friendly staff who is always willing to chat about the studio and its history.
The 24-acres of shaded land on the water was bought as a summer retreat in 1908 by Annette McConnell Anderson, a New Orleans socialite with bohemian tendencies. She used her elegant grace and unconventional creative style to fashion a tiny art colony that was developed 20 years later into a family business showcasing the pottery of all three of her sons.
And what emerged were two artistic legacies—Peter and Walter Anderson.
Peter became a master potter and founded Shearwater while Walter became a nationally renowned painter, whose turbulent life spawned work profoundly connected to the natural world of coastal Mississippi.
The pottery studios have survived countless hurricanes and are still going strong today with a showroom full of vivid and rich-colored pottery for sale. A museum room displays many historical pieces and their stories.
Three of Peter’s children continue the family tradition today—throwing, jiggering, and casting one-of-a-kind pieces such as pirates, dock workers, seabirds, and fish that each evoke a fairy-tale view of the historic shoreline. There are also mugs, bowls, and plates depicting Coastal hues.
Shearwater gets its name from the type of pottery produced in the studio. It is high-grade, hard-fired earthenware that is functional for houseware as well as décor. The pottery is crafted with two clay bodies.
A Tennessee white clay gives an underglaze to cast-ware from molds created by Anderson family members. The second clay is buff-bodied and Mississippi-sourced. It is used to create thrown pieces. Both styles are then hand decorated or glazed with unique shades known only to the Gulf Coast.
Over the years, Shearwater Pottery has become not only a destination for collectors who prized the Anderson family creations but serves as the fountainhead of this remarkable clan of craftspeople and even inspired an art festival.
In November, thousands of people will come to Ocean Springs for the Peter Anderson Festival. The event was created in Peter’s honor and celebrates potters, painters, and other artists from across the nation.
Both Peter and Walter have imprints scattered throughout the soulful art town of Ocean Springs with vibrant community murals, charming art shops, and the intimate and stunning Walter Anderson Museum of Art on Washington Avenue. It takes about 10 minutes to drive from the museum to the Shearwater studios.
Both artistic destinations are worth a visit.
*Photo courtesy of Shearwater Pottery’s Facebook page