Gift-giving can be challenging and stressful, but it can also be an art and an incredible message of love, sentimentality, and storytelling. So while the numbers from sales and the red and green bundles can be motivators for purchases, the story behind each gift – and gift maker – can mean even more. Each state presents an opportunity to give gifts that represent its unique identity – from its history and culture to its nature and beauty.
This is exactly what you can expect when you meet Beth Smith of Mudtown Pottery. Her handmade ceramics not only have a beautiful origin story, but they also represent the rich beauty of the state of Alabama as well. As a mother who raised four children, she knows the chaos and commotion that life can present.
So when it comes to her art, she strives to make pieces that are durable to withstand the daily demands of life. “To me, pottery is a unique form of art that celebrates connection,” says Smith, when asked about the inspiration behind her art. “My hands form and make the vessel that someone else’s hands will use in their daily rituals – drinking their coffee or using a tray for a gathering.”
Mudtown Pottery not only draws inspiration from family but also the beauty of Alabama’s Cahaba River. Mudtown Pottery’s logo, designed by Beth’s daughter Kadie Smith of Drop Cap Design, pays homage to the Cahaba Lily, which grows right here in Alabama. Each May, Beth and her husband Danny paddle out into the Cahaba River before dawn to see the lilies in bloom. Recounting this tradition, Smith describes, “For at least a decade, maybe longer, during the blooming season we have gotten ourselves out of bed in the wee morning hours to drive out to West Blocton to see them in the morning fog as the sun is coming up.”
Even the name itself is inspired by the history and environment that Alabama offers. Whether she is experimenting with different Alabama clays for her pottery or creating pieces with a special Alabama flare, Beth’s ceramic creations are heirloom items that showcase the artistry of the state of Alabama and the artists who live and create here.
As we enter into the season of giving, it can be beneficial to slow down and take a step away from all the noise of sales, deals, and discounts to really focus on what we are buying and why. A study conducted in 2022 by the Center for Biological Diversity found “benefits of giving alternative gifts and challenging cultural norms that influence material gift-giving behaviors.”
The Center’s study found that 69% of respondents were likely to give handmade gifts purchased from a business when asked about alternative gifts versus the cultural emphasis on holiday materialism.
When we step away from mass production aimed to meet the general interest and needs of a large whole, we have the ability to give gifts of story rather than just the gifts of substance. So, for the coffee drinker in your life, consider gifting one of Mudtown Pottery’s most popular items – the beloved coffee mug – and maybe pairing it with a local coffee roaster.
For the hostess, a serving tray or candle holders as centerpieces for food and fellowship. Or for the romantic, a vase whose colors, Smith explains, “compliment the bounty of flowers we can grow in Alabama.” And if you don’t see anything that catches your eye, you can request a custom order to be tailored to your loved one.