Brian Nettles has been a full-time potter for a decade. He's had his Bell's Ferry Road studio for about that long, and his own local art show at the studio for the last eight years. He was the studio director for the Ohr O-Keefe Museum of Art, and lived, for the last three years, in the Pass Christian home he built by hand.|
Hurricane Katrina ripped Nettles' high-profile job from him just as quickly as it ripped his house in half. His studio was almost completely submerged and filled with muck. He soon put his life's passion on hold and was forced to take any job he could find to make ends meet. He even contemplated giving up pottery altogether and getting a contractor's license.
In February, however, Nettles received a call from Jerry Wagner of Pennsylvania. Wagner had heard of the plight of South Mississippi potters in the wake of the storm and said he was willing to donate, through his business, a $40,000 gas-fired kiln to Nettles and other area potters.
"I kinda thought the guy was crazy and blew it off," Nettles said. "I didn't believe him, but sure enough, he came down a few months later. He didn't just send it down, he actually came down and hooked it up. It was pretty amazing. I have about five or six other potters that are coming out and using it. It's the least I could do, I know other people that need help, so we just opened it up for everybody that lost their kilns."
Since the kiln was delivered in May, Nettles said his desire to create has been rekindled. His house has been reattached, and he's working on it as he can. His studio has been rebuilt, and he's hosting his annual art show and sale this weekend for the first time since Katrina. Nettles also is working the art festival circuit once again, and is curating some exhibits at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art's temporary location early next year.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "I think it's going to work out. It's promising that people are getting up and going and rebuilding their studios and staying. (We are) a pretty deep community here, we're going to stick it out."
- JUSTIN HOOKS