Story and Photos By Stephanie Kalina-Metzger
You could say that Audra Doughty has a way with clay. And if Audra is the Mud Queen, you could say that her daughter Maggie is the Mud Princess. The mother and daughter team owns and operates Mud Queen Pottery in Linglestown.
They began working with clay at roughly the same time. “We started with a project that Maggie had in high school about 11 years ago and our business grew out of that,” said Audra, adding that they liked it so much that they decided to share their skills with others.
“I started teaching classes in my basement and did that for about a year before moving to a small building across from the Eagle Hotel in Linglestown in 2014,” said Audra. Three years later, the ladies decided that it was time to move to a larger space. Today, the business sits on a half-acre at 5933 Linglestown Road and includes retail space, parking, and a barn where classes are conducted. The two structures located on site date back to the 1800s. “The house was built in 1879, but we suspect the barn is a lot older than that,” said Audra.
Those who visit the house will have their pick of a wide range of art and other unique gift items. Among those are macrame hangings, candles, jewelry, pottery, wind chimes, pillows, kitchen towels, stained glass and more. “We work very closely with an alpaca farm in Grantville where we source yarn and socks, as well,” said Audra, adding that they view the space as an indoor art fest.
Behind the store stands the barn where Maggie and Audra now hold classes. In a classic example of making lemonade from lemons, the Doughtys explain that they moved their instructional space there due to the pandemic. “When COVID-19 hit and we had to social distance, we moved to the barn,” said Audra, adding that it was a good transition because of the extra space the barn provided. Visitors are often impressed with how the Doughtys hewed to history with the remodel. “We were able to have it reconstructed to be as close to the original as possible, while adding all kinds of modern amenities like HVAC and so forth, so it still looks like an old barn,” said Audra.
Both Audra and Maggie teach classes ranging from one evening, to eight-week classes held weekly. “We like to give people a gentle introduction so that they can leave with items they can use. Those who take our one-time class generally go home with a cup and a bowl. Those who take our eight-week classes generally have goals they can achieve in making larger pieces,” said Maggie.
For special occasions, Mud Queen offers what they call “Wine and Wheel” nights where a group can get together for drinks and spend time on the pottery wheel. “Those who attend usually go home with two pieces—usually a bowl and a dish, or candleholder,” said Maggie.
The mother daughter duo also invites guest artists to visit periodically. Just this February, they welcomed Nikki Mizak from North Carolina whose functional pottery is known to feature animals. “Chicken trucks packed from top to bottom with dirty, white birds drive past my house every day, and the sadness lingers longer than the odor. I want to show that animals like these chickens are more than ingredients tightly packed in plastic and polystyrene foam. I enjoy trying to capture their personalities, their curious yet judgmental eyes, and the way their beautiful feathers beg to be painted,” she said.
Kristie Smoker from Annville is a long-time Mud Queen customer. “I’ve been along for the ride since they were in the smaller space,” said Smoker, who started throwing on the wheel, then moved to hand building. Smoker, who is 70, said she hadn’t found her niche until she began learning from the Doughtys. “It’s been an inspirational journey; they helped me find myself in clay. It makes my heart happy every time there is a class,” she said.
Christine Waters of Harrisburg feels similarly. “I started with the Wine and Wheel class with a group of friends last year and the minute I touched the clay I knew I loved it,” said Waters, adding that Audra’s personality is well suited to teaching. “She’s laid back, free spirited and so encouraging. She allows people to explore at their own pace,” she said.
As for Maggie and Audra, they keep abreast of things happening in the clay world by taking classes taught by other artists. “We try to keep up with the pace of new information and different ways of doing things. We’re always looking for ways to improve,” Maggie said.
The Doughtys said that running the business has been very rewarding. “It’s such a delight to be able to introduce so many people to such an interesting and joyful art,” said Audra.
Learn more by visiting their website at www.mudqueenpottery.com.