The Transylvania Times -

Local Pottery Family Keeps Dabbing Away


August 10, 2017

Matt McGregor

Carol and John Dodson, with daughter, Jessie, are carrying on a family tradition.

Though a progeny of potters, 12-year-old Jessie Dodson prefers ballet to ceramics.

But family tradition can be hard to override, even with the reluctance of youth.

Jessie, daughter of Carol and John Dodson, who own Mud Dabbers Pottery on the Greenville Highway, descends from a family whose hands dab into shaping clay, itself an art humans have practiced since ancient Mesopotamia.

And despite Jessie's seemingly understandable disinclination toward pottery - seeing as how she is constantly surrounded by it - one might suspect that it is short-lived, and that her ceramic destiny is inevitable, considering where she is being raised.

John E., Jessie's father, was the son of John O., who opened Mud Dabbers in 1988 with his wife, Sybil.

John O. had worked for the city of Columbus Recreation Department in Columbus, Ga., where John E. grew up.

John O. had a garage studio, where he did pottery on the side when Sybil got the opportunity to come and work at Brevard College.

"Shortly after they moved here, dad got a contract with Rockbrook Camp right next door, where he was a resident potter for 12 years, out by the Free Rein Center for Therapeutic Riding and Education," Dodson said.

Carol said John's parents started Mud Dabbers while John E. was finishing college at the University of Georgia and practicing pottery on the side for extra money.

Carol said Sybil, who had not been a potter, eventually started sculpting little animals and figurines.

"People loved her bunnies, white squirrels, wind chimes and little mountain women," Carol said.

John E. said, with an "untrained eye," Sybil had adopted a "grandma Moses" style of sculpting, which would be later glazed by John O. and sold in the shop.

"She said it was like picking up money off the ground," Carol said.

Carol said she herself is a potter by marriage. She was once a reporter in Louisiana for the newspaper The Alexandria Daily Town Talk before going into public relations. Carol said she found pottery to be "therapeutic."

"When I first started, I had a stressful job, and I just liked coming in and doing something to get out of my head and relax," Carol said.

John E. said it's hard to get bored with pottery, and when his parents retired, Carol and John bought the current property in 2000, renovated what was once a gas station converted to a general store in 1922, and turned it into a workshop of clay and creativity, where Jessie has come of age.

Frank and Elizabeth Creech, who have a collection of the Dodson's pottery running along their kitchen cabinets and have watched Jessie grow up, remembered when she was 8 years old, the pre-reluctant preteen years.

"The Dodsons have a customer appreciation day every Christmas where they make cups, glaze them, and invite people for cider and cookies," Creech said. "Jessie had set up a table and was showing kids who had come with their parents how to make pottery, and it was darling to see Jessie helping her parents."

Creech described the pottery of Mud Dabbers as having a feeling to it that evokes "the honesty of these mountains."

And it's this honesty in their work that inspired Creech to commission a piece for Jessie, so that she would have an heirloom to reflect her time with her family of potters, whether she follows in their footsteps or not.

"We wanted to do something special for Jessie that would be made by her father's hands, something Jessie would have when she grew up and could pass to her own children," Creech said. "So, we commissioned John to make this piece, and we instructed that he talk with Jessie to see what her favorite colors are, and what she loves more than anything else."

Rocky, Jessie's 4-year-old cat, followed Jessie home from Rockbrook Camp (hence the name, "Rocky," short for Rockbrook) one day, and hasn't left since.

"We tried to send Rocky back to camp, but they didn't want her," Carol said jokingly.

Jessie told her parents how much she loved Rocky.

Thus, Rocky became the muse behind the piece John sculpted.

"The result is a small, lidded pot, topped with a cat finial, to serve as a jewelry box," Creech said. "The graceful, footed pot is glazed in shades of Jessie's favorite color, a creamy green, and the model for the finial is Jessie's adored kitty, Rocky, and the glaze on the cat approximates Rocky's golden color."

In gratitude, Jessie, the reluctant potter, made Frank and Elizabeth a serving platter with stars glazed in Jessie's favorite colors: green, blue and teal.

Creech said he was happy to contribute to the ceramic family tradition, and he said he can't help but speculate.

"One wonders, will Jessie follow?"


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