Ceramic artist Gail Jones Pittman was born on 1 May 1951, the second child of Patsy Farmer Jones and Walker William Jones Jr. She lived in Indianola, where her parents operated a construction business, Walker Jones Equipment, until the family moved to Jackson when she was five.
Jones graduated from Murrah High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Mississippi. She married John R. Pittman, with whom she had attended high school, and settled in Jackson, where she taught for five years in the public school system before leaving the workforce to raise her two children.
After seeing an Italian ceramic bowl at a local shop, she decided that she wanted to become a potter and in 1979 embarked on a new adventure at her kitchen table. During the early 1980s Pittman sold her creations to friends, at the Canton flea market, and at the Everyday Gourmet, a Jackson gift store operated by her friend, Carol Daily. By 1986 Pittman’s business had outgrown her home, and she purchased a fifteen-hundred-square foot studio space and a commercial kiln and hired three employees. Gail Pittman Designs was born. She soon brought in a business partner, Thomas Maley, and they acquired a seventy-eight-hundred-square-foot studio. By 1992 the business moved to Ridgeland, where she eventually employed more than one hundred people. All of the clay and paint used in her products are made on site at her studio. Pittman’s hand-painted dinnerware and accessories are known for their bright, colorful motifs, which include whimsical graphic patterns as well as more traditional designs with flowers and fruit.
Pittman continues to serve as president and CEO of Gail Pittman Designs. From 2005 to 2010 she also held the post of creative director for Southern Living at Home. She has received many awards, including the Ernst and Young 1993 Entrepreneur of the Year. In addition, Pittman is a philanthropist, donating a percentage of the profits from the sale of her Hope and Future collections to help rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Since 2002 she has also served on the board of directors of Sanderson Farms, the third-largest US poultry producer and the only member of the Fortune 1000 headquartered in Mississippi.
- S. J. Anderson, Mississippi Business Journal (28 April 2008)
- Gail Pittman Designs website, gailpittman.com
- Lynn Lofton, Mississippi Business Journal (16 October 2006)
- Kendra Myers, Business First (Spring 2006); Sanderson Farms website, www.sandersonfarms.com