2017 Marks John T. Dietrich’s 50 Years in Pottery
John’s short story begins way back in 1966, the Dark Ages to some. While John was hanging out with friends in the pottery studio at the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek, a friend said ’You should try this, John’ meaning throw on the potters wheel. John threw a dog dish. He. Was. Hooked. What big changes can you look for? You'll see them in the gallery, in our newsletter and blog and social media especially Instagram which is particularly good for images. But first, more about John. Without him and his hard work I'd have nothing to tell you.
After finishing college and a year in graduate school he knew he wanted to be a studio potter so in 1967 he talked to Abe Cohn, a Wisconsin master potter with a studio/gallery in both Milwaukee and Fish Creek about an assistant’s position. After 6 years with Abe and his wife Ginka he bought the property in Ellison Bay and started his own studio and gallery: Ellison Bay Pottery.
So for me, for us, here, this is a very important milestone. It’s wonderful to look at photos of the barn as it was and as it is today. John has wonderful stories of how it was to live in this big wooden tent with no well and no septic and no heat for three years. He worked hard to create the gallery and then studio in the first year so he could be in business as quickly as possible. His living quarters came last, but eventually everything was done. All the while he was working in his studio developing his skills, his ‘voice’, distinctive his style, his signature, his glazes. Surrounded by his various cats and dogs that made up his ‘Ellison Bay Pottery and Pet Farm’ he was often guided by those adorable creatures. This is Bibs giving John a should massage, or suggestions.
After all those years of creating a successful design and recognizable signature, we as artists are faced with choices: To continue down the safe road or venture off into the unknown. Stretching creative muscles isn’t easy and coasting on past successes is very, very easy. It’s also boring. No one wants to be bored, or boring!! So I’ll reveal a few new things we’ve been working this month.
Ikebana Mug Dish
John and I are in the middle of developing a new ikebana. It’s going to be completely hand-built. Look at these photos as a potter’s sketchbook. We expect to see changes. The first iteration will be fired and ready to show you soon and then we begin change it again! These photos are of green-ware: pottery that is just drying and not even close to what they will look like when completed. The mug has a new foot (that's what we call bottoms of things) and a different surface design. My square dishes are continuing to evolve.
While we are committed to functional pottery that can be used every day, the need to make decorative ceramic art is deep. John is working on a series, which he is currently calling his 'Planet' series which is beyond exciting to me. These were shot in the studio, not very good lighting. But their shapes don't need good lighting.