Finding Inspiration at the Miracle Pottery Shop in Alabama
Valinda Miracle’s hands moved up and down the wet mess of clay, her fingers shaping the vase with the gentleness a mother uses to wipe tears from a child’s cheeks. Tears, though, are no stronger to Valinda, and her business, Miracle Pottery, strangely enough released her from them.
The foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, near Mentone, Alabama, in Valley Head, provide the perfect backdrop for the unique designs Valinda creates and sells at Miracle Pottery.
I loved her specialty creations–the jugleys being my favorite! Jugleys are jugs made in a variety of sizes, each with a unique face. In fact, Valinda explains in her autobiography that she believes there’s a strong connection between pottery and people, saying, “I am of the opinion that God finds the handmade method quite necessary in the forming and shaping of the clay peculiar to each one of us.”
The juglies, however, seem inspired by children’s fairy tales and fun stories, with their trollish faces and toothy grins!
As well as the quirky, Valinda and her fellow potters create just about everything you can imagine.
Valinda Miracle’s Story
Pottery didn’t come into Valinda’s life until after a car accident where she experienced a closed head injury. For months she suffered agonizing headaches and large gaps in her cognitive abilities–in fact, she told me, “I’d been released to that piece of clay.” When her doctor began to consider institutionalization, a friend suggested she try a creative activity to stimulate the artistic side of the brain.
Struggling through a pottery class with her friend, Valinda became determined to create just one little pot to show her instructor that she could. That pot was her first accomplishment in four years.
From there, Valinda jumped into pottery with both feet, ordering everything she’d need from a supply house–studying techniques in books–and getting long-distance instruction from the pottery company. She started making pots on her porch, inspired by her view of Lookout Mountain and the lake. Gradually, her memories and abilities began return.
It was another sixteen years before Valinda was able to open Miracle Pottery in Valley Head, Alabama. And they weren’t easy years either–in fact, after going into hospital for two minor surgeries she developed complications that included more surgeries and a fight against the dreaded flesh eating disease. But through them all, Valinda never lost hope, as she explains in her book: The Dead Don’t Bleed: Those Who Are Alive Do.
J. Spencer’s Restaurant
Valinda Miracle has done many things in her life, including running restaurants. One of her sons shared her interest in the industry, so J. Spencer’s Restaurant is located with the pottery business.
The restaurant offers the kind of atmosphere you might expect in the foothills of the Appalachians–a deck, tall trees with a full moon overhead, and down home friendly service–the menu, though, is far from being comfort food or traditional recipes.
Luckily, I was starving after a day in the amazing North Alabama outdoors when I visited. I shared both the zucchini and onion pie appetizers with another writer before my first course of shrimp creole soup. Then, for my main dish, I ordered the honey pecan salmon, which had three of my favorite things!
And, it didn’t end there. I stretched the coffee and key lime pie out for another hour or so while I enjoyed the music of a local duo providing dinner entertainment. Evenings just don’t get any better.
Miracle Pottery is nestled at the base of the hills at 7871 Alabama Hwy 117 between Gadsden, Alabama, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, just off exit 231 of Interstate 59.