Wallowing in mud is just another day at the office for potter Craig McMillin.by FAITH DAWSON Funny thing how Mudflap Pottery of Folsom got its name. Years ago, the owner and artist behind the name, Craig McMillin, was working as a pottery trainee in Texas when he tried to attach the handle to a colleague, who had the longest hair and beard of anyone working there.
The scruffy colleague balked, so McMillin, concerned that a perfectly good nickname was going to be orphaned, adopted it himself. Today the studio is the primary entity known as Mudflap, but its owner answers to it as well. “He didn’t like it too much, but I did, so I took it,” McMillin explains.
The easygoing McMillin is hardly the type to make a flap about anything, and his pottery reflects that attitude. Bowls, sinks, vases and dishes are free-form and casual, with earthy glazes and almost humorous dispositions. Unusual shapes and subtle colors—McMillin says “bright” colors such as turquoise are more popular than neutral tones—give them personality, but they’re difficult to label. Are they rustic? Are they sophisticated? Well—maybe. The first demand McMillin satisfies is that no piece stray from its functional origin. Therefore everything works, and while he knows most customers are buying his pottery as decoration, he wouldn’t want anyone to think that it couldn’t be used.
Second, McMillin creates pieces that he likes. “Lately I’ve been putting wood ash over glazes, which will give it a whole new look. It’ll get everything running together and melting and revealing different layers to the glazes,” he says.
Sometimes ideas percolate in his brain for months or years; sometimes he tries an idea unsuccessfully but later reworks it a few times over. “My place is littered with bad ideas,” he says gamely, “but I keep them around because I can look at them again and they reinspire me to try to make the right decision the next time.”
McMillin first tried throwing pots on a wheel in high school, where a teacher had brought in some old equipment and let the students play with it. The art gripped him; he later studied pottery in college and went on to pursue jobs in that field. The artist says he has never been employed outside the field of pottery. That’s impressive to have found your niche early on, I say. But do you ever consider trying other art forms, such as sculpture?
“Sculpture would bore me after an hour or so,” he replies.
Then what is it, exactly, that appeals to McMillin? “My favorite part is the wet part—sitting down at the wheel, making the pot … The glazing is more abstract and I enjoy that to an extent, but nothing nearly as much as sitting there with mud in my hands.”
McMillin says he hopes to bring the same tactile experience to his customers, who should see and feel a piece before they decide to buy it. (Sometimes he works on commission, but only after he tries to get a idea for what the customer is looking for.)
McMillin recently built a new studio and shop, which will be complete by summer. He also hopes to offer pottery classes for adults with guest teachers. Mudflap Pottery can be seen at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Fresh Art Festival and various art shows around the southeastern United States. Locally, McMillin is represented by Flair Interiors, Objets Trouvés and Interiors and Extras. • Craig McMillin, (985) 796-3512,www.mud flappottery.com