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6 8 • south mississippi scene
W E L L B L E S S Y O U R H E A RT A N D
Well, bless her heart. People are tracking down Rhonda Rayborn’s “How’s Ya Mama & ‘Em” t-shirts all over the south. K.D. Townsend, Manager of Tropical Glamour in Petal explains, “When I wear my ‘Mess with this Mississippi Girl… you will be messin’ with the whole trailer park!’ t-shirt, I literally have people chasing me down to ask where I got it.” Tropical Glamour along with an additional 103 locations across the nation carry these southern charmed shirts that are based on sayings that are indigenous to our area. From “Mississippi Girls & Iced Tea, Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!” to “Do You Believe in love at first sight or do I need to walk back by?” to “Does My Lipstick Match My FourWheeler,” these colorful fast selling t-shirts complete with artwork, cover the gamut of
topics including spiritual and custom designs for schools. “They all sell really well, particularly those with Bible verses,” Townsend adds. “How’s Ya Mama & ‘Em?” is the registered trademark and brainchild of Brookhaven’s Rhonda Rayborn. Though her tshirts are fairly new to the market, her trademark “Mississippi Hospitality” pottery has been around for several years and both encompass the flavors and personality of our Magnolia state. Rayborn attributes her passion for Mississippi to her upbringing in the antebellum rich town of Natchez where she and her family were part of the yearly Pilgrimage at which she dressed in period clothing and served as a tour guide. “In my early years I just fell in love with Mississippi, its charm, people, places, things, and say-
ings. I also had two close grandmothers who through their language, expressions, and work ethics, taught me how to be a southern lady. They had such funny sayings and both were excellent cooks,” she states. In 1994, Rayborn’s body became devastated with the effects of Crohn’s disease requiring her to have extensive surgeries and spend over 200 days in the hospital. “I never was able to return to my previous job because of the a m o u n t o f travel and hours involved,” she states. It was during the recovery period in the hospital and her motivation to get well that prompted some new appreciation and plans. She states “My aunt and mother were my caregivers. They were both strong Mississippi women. My sisters would read John
STORY BY JAMIE O’QUINN PHOTOS COURTESY RHONDA RAYBORN
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Grisham’s books to me; I’d watch Oprah at 4 pm each afternoon; and I’d listen to Faith Hill sing. Because they had the Mississippi connection, they all had a very positive influence on me.” Rayborn also attributes the prayers and strong faith of her friends to helping her get her life back. After 2 1/2 years of recovery, Rayborn turned back to a craft she had learned years earlier in college creating pottery. “When I started doing the Mississippi Hospitality patterns on pasta bowls, I used food that represented both my grandmothers most delicious dishes. They are things our family grew up eating,” she explains. This includes chicken and dumplings, homemade biscuits, cheese grits and fried green tomatoes. In addition, she also draws from her tour guide days in Natchez to include famous landmarks and people. “I learned to sell Mississippi to the tourist,” she explains. In addition to artists such as BB King, the Blues Highway, and numerous authors, she also includes football legends such as
Brett Favre and Archie Manning. “I include people I’ve grown up being proud of because they are from Mississippi,” she adds. Since she always gets a sparkle in her eye at this time of the year when the azaleas and dogwoods start blooming, they are infused into her creations as well. “My pottery is a mixture of Mississippi hospitality and who we are,” she states. The Mississippi Hospitality series pottery includes relative-
ly larger pieces that are just right for decorating. The pasta bowls, cookie jar sets, oval and round patterns hang easily on plate racks and vases grace the tables. Rayborn personally makes every piece and decorates it herself. “My orders keep me busy. It’s labor intensive and each bowl is different, but I love doing it,” she adds. Annyce Browning, owner of Dogwoods in the Oak Grove/Hattiesburg area sells both the pottery and t-shirts.
“The Mississippi Hospitality pottery are very much in demand,” Browning explains. “People love it all, particularly the bowls and triangle plates. We sold her ornaments at Christmas-time and they were wonderful. Rhonda’s pottery and t-shirts were our number 1 best sellers during the holiday season.” She explains that last year, they got to know Rhonda when she spent the day with them signing her wares. “She’s really an awesome person. The
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sayings on her t-shirts really capture her. We’ll have customers laugh out loud when they read her t-shirts and I’ll say ’Yeah, that’s Rhonda’.” Browning also states that the Mississippi hospitality series pottery is really popular for
those wanting to give visitors mementos of our state and also as presents to former residents who have moved off as a reminder of home. When someone takes home a ‘How’s Ya Mama & ‘Em?’ tshirt, they might not realize
they are taking Rhonda home too. That’s because the sassy little girl on the front of every tshirt with the trademark saying is actually a depiction of the creator herself in 1975 as a ninth grader when she completed her first paying artist job.
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‘How’s Ya Mama and ‘Em?’ is just a southern way of asking about your family,” she explains. “It’s just a hospitable thing to do.” What started out as just a saying she included on her pottery pieces, eventually became the trademark for both lines. “We would laugh when the reorder forms would come in requesting ’How’s Ya Mama & ‘Em?’ instead of ‘Mississippi Hospitability Pottery,’ which was the original name of the pottery series.” Rayborn’s ceramics are carried in select stores from Hattiesburg to Kosciusko to Brookhaven to Louisville. “Because they are ceramic, they are breakable. We usually carry the items to the store or they come to us to get the pieces,” she states. The t-shirts, however, sell not only in Mississippi, but also Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana, and Arkansas, with each tailored for that particular state. “I’m in the process of creating a Tennessee girls’ line too,” she adds. With a list of forty sayings on her brightly colored shirts, here are just a few more. ‘Mississippi Girls Love Their Flip Flops,’ ‘Mississippi Girls know that sometimes all you can say is… Lord Have Mercy,’ ‘Mississippi Girls sweep the floor, load the dishwasher, make the bed, cook supper, and six months later… Dang! Gotta do it again!,’ ‘Oh Sugar!, Mississippi Girls never ever hate a man enough to give him diamonds back!,’ ‘Mississippi Girls follow the Son,’ ‘Mississippi Girls are like purses… it’s what’s on the inside that counts,’ and ‘Mississippi Girls are like all other girls, just prettier!’ Rayborn states she is always adding more to her collection. “In addition to things that we grew up saying, my friends frequently send me text messages of new things they have heard. Mississippians are crazy about t-shirts, we wear them everywhere. Creating them is such a fun thing to do.” For more information on Rayborn’s Mississippi Hospitability pottery and ‘How’s Ya Mama & ‘Em?’ t-shirts, you may go to www.rhondarayborn.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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