The magic of the process is what’s always brought Jamie Blattmann back to pottery. Each step – molding, firing, glazing, another firing – patiently awaits the next, and the clay won’t let you rush through any of it.
Even though Jamie has been making ceramics for 30 years, she’s always surprised by the final piece. “When a piece that’s just beautiful makes it through the whole process, it feels good. I love that you can take something so simple and turn it into anything that you want,” she says.
Between career changes and moves across the country, Jamie has developed her style and skill, now displayed through Alabama Mud. She’s owned her business for nearly ten years, producing vases, bowls, dishes, and other products that sell in stores across the Southeast.
Jamie completed her art degree at UAB during the rise of Frank Fleming and among other thriving Birmingham creatives, including her metalworking professor Janice Kluge. Though Jamie focused on metal art and photography, a draw towards ceramics was still there.
Shortly after marrying, she moved with her husband to British Columbia, where she received her ceramics certification. Jamie produced work for galleries with other artists in her circle as she established herself as a potter.
In that season she would carefully transport pieces to a nearby studio to fire and finish them. After the day she dropped and shattered a batch of pottery, the shop’s owner bought Jamie her first kiln.
The English culture fueled her love for color – something she brought back to Mountain Brook with her. Many of her pieces are glazed in white for a clean look, but Jamie finds ways to incorporate color when she can, whether it’s through gold lining or a bright blue floral design.
Alabama Mud remains small and everything is handmade by Jamie, but she hasn’t always worked that way. When she returned to Alabama after her years in Canada, she and her sister founded Tiny Kingdom Creations and shipped keepsake pottery pieces to 42 states. The busy seasons, even with a team to help, were overwhelming.
After selling the business and a short break, Jamie once again returned to clay. “I decided to go back to the basics,” she says. “It can be difficult to produce so much for shops. You lack the more individual pieces.”
Jamie often made teapots and tea sets for customers and galleries in British Columbia, but the South doesn’t have the same appreciation for tea. So, her specialization has shifted to everyday, simple pieces, sometimes with a bit of the flare she developed alongside Canadian artists.
Her designs are classic, most with a pearly, crisp finish, but she lets the clay lead the work. “The clay has its own mind,” she says. “You can move it, but it tells you how it wants to be moved. Once you start fighting with it, it looks like you’ve been fighting with it. I like that it talks back to you.”
The clean white color, which Jamie says can make life feel a little more serene, balances with the one-of-a-kind, organic shapes. With a softness to how she forms the clay, Jamie’s work brings life to delicate details. Her her pieces bear roses or other flowers, or the rims of bowls fold like fresh linen.
Her wavy bowls really let their personalities come out, making them one of Jamie’s favorite products. When she gets the chance to make a large one, she loves getting to see how the clay moves on its own. “Pieces can turn into fluid bowls or a stiff structure,” she says. “If there’s a mistake, you can turn it into something good.”
Here and there, Jamie finds a little time to play with new forms, colors, and textures to embellish the styles she already works with. As she works on a group of pieces, she likes to experiment with one or two, adding a new texture or design to what she usually works with. She also makes time to explore other artistic interests like photography, and she recently returned from a photography tour in Norway.
While her eye for composition and color may remain the same through any art form, there’s still something different about pottery. There’s a joy and mystery in the final product, even though she’s had years of practice and teaching others.
Jamie remembers learning from other photographers on her last trip and watching how they can envision the end product before even taking the picture.
But for Jamie, never knowing or even predicting how a piece of clay will transform is magic. The surprise when you open the kiln is never spoiled. “You just gasp every time when you see what comes out.”
Find Alabama Mud
You can find Jamie’s work on her website or talk to her about a custom order, but she also sells her work in stores across the Southeast (and in a few beyond the South.) Find her bowls, vases, and dishes in these local Birmingham stores.
- Alabama Gift Company
- Alabama Goods
- The Blue Willow
- Mustard Seeds