Natchez potter likens clay work to spiritualism

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2001

Natchez potter Tom Hughes views his craft from a unique perspective.

&uot;Humans are like pottery,&uot; he says as he slowly, methodically molds a blob of clay into the beginnings of a medium-sized bowl. &uot;We are earthen vessels.&uot;

Hughes spends many of his mornings and afternoons turning pots in his small studio tucked beneath his four-bedroom home on Pecanwood Drive in Natchez.

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Hughes molds clay into a variety of shapes and sizes as a radio provides background rhythm.

From small mugs and bowls to large platters and urns, Hughes uses his unique talent to create works of art.

&uot;Thrown pots are like people. Each one has a different personality,&uot; Hughes says.

He was first introduced to the art of pottery while working for International Paper in Panama City, Fla.

There, Hughes received a pottery wheel from his sister-in-law, herself a potter. Since then Hughes has shaped clay into almost every conceivable form, including kitchen sinks.

After transferring to IP’s Natchez mill, Hughes retired in 1992. In retirement, Hughes has been able to focus on his two loves full time – working in his workshop and doing mission work.

When not in his studio, Hughes volunteers and takes part in prison ministry programs throughout the Miss-Lou. Hughes even took a mission trip to Kenya where he learned about Kenyan pottery techniques and taught the locals how to make chalices and patens, which are platters used during communion services.

For the past several years, Hughes has been busy combining his craft and his abiding faith in God.

Making communion sets for churches all across Mississippi has given Hughes the opportunity to experience his Christianity through his pottery.

&uot;Like pottery, we are all vessels waiting to be filled – filled with the Holy Spirit,&uot; Hughes said.