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Pottery Thoughts

Kiln Furniture is Not Comfortable

Kiln furniture isn't for sitting. It's for holding shelves in a kiln. This is where John stores his furniture between firings. 
This is for plates. The posts hold the plate stand and then we can stack two/three plates in one space. Very handy when we're filling a dinnerware order. 
Posts on the floor of the kiln. These will probably stay here until the next firing. 
And here is a pile of cone packs. 
Cone packs hold pyrometric cones that measure accurately the temperature in the kiln. John uses cone packs and a pyrometer and the color of the flame when he looks into the peep hole to manage his firing. I like to think the cone packs are a kind of art. 
New Shape
New Glazes
I love these. 

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Nature and Our Ceramics

Our ceramics are inspired by the stunning natural beauty of Door County, the southern part of the amazing Niagara Escarpment.

The arbor vitae cling to the cliffs and fill the air with it’s tenacious aromas, the fresh air off Lake Michigan and Green Bay lift spirits, the clear water and skies expand hearts and minds of all who visit.


It’s impossible to not be inspired. Our shapes, images and glazes reference the lakes, cliffs, forests, beaches, and weather in each piece of functional art we make.

We translate these powerful experiences into abstract and universal images that elicit an instant response by the viewer which makes visiting our showroom an interactive experience.

A bowl or pitcher may be reminded of a certain beach, person or moment, or a certain season, night sky, a concert or meal when you see a bowl or pitcher.  A connection is made, the story becomes yours and you know you've found what you were looking for.  


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'Hands in Clay' a Group Pottery Show at the Miller Art Museum Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin

Hands in Clay, a new exhibit at the Miller Art Museum in Sturgeon Bay, includes sixteen Door County potters in all their glory. The show opens November 8 and closes at the end of the year. 

Think pottery is brown or blue and a heavy mug or bowl? Go to this exhibit and be amazed at what potters can do with this simple, humble material that is clay. 

'Gillian' by Stephanie Evans

We delivered pieces from both of our current work to the Museum. In addition to the pieces in the exhibition, many of the participating artists agreed to put some pieces in the Museum's gift shop as part of the Museum's ongoing fund raising efforts. 

Please join all the artists this Saturday afternoon for the Opening to this important Door County art show. 

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Our Last Art Show--in Madison, Wisconsin--Olbrich Botanical Gardens--Booth 14 in the Commons

Used to be we'd have half dozen or more Art Shows to go to all year, although most of them were in the off season. During the summer John would pack up the van and drive to Milwaukee, Racine, or Appleton. We also had, during the year,  two in Madison, one in Green Bay and one in Ellison Bay for Olde Ellison Bay Days. (That one we were also directors of, so we had more fun sometimes than is legal.)
Anyway, back to this Art Show. 
 A new date (not March anymore) and a new location (from the Hilldale to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens) have served to improve this show. Being in the mall wasn't bad, just too mall-like. Food though was good. The light and atmosphere will probably be better and November is a great month for us to get away and enjoy a new location for a while. Also, we plan on lingering in Madison for a few days after the show. Something we didn't do in March, being we needed to get back and continue production. 
This year we have a sizable order list to complete in time for Christmas and for that we're grateful but we don't have to rush home, and we're happy about that, too. 
Oh, that order list? There's room on that list for a few more orders, in case you're thinking about placing a pottery order for Christmas.  
In fact, you should act now before that list fills up. It's happened before. 
One more thing. Call to check with us on our inventory. We may have already created what you'd like and we can bring it down for you. Special and free delivery! 

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The Party

What was the best part of the party for me? I could say that not raining was the best part since the party was outside. I could say the food, since it was the FIRST time I'd ever had Paella.

But no, the best part was the friends old and new, some of whom drove hours just to celebrate with us. The friends who couldn't be here who took photos of their collections and sent them to us. The friends who called or took us to the Players or out for drinks in the following weeks. 

I'd include the music, which was the first time I'd ever learned of murder ballads or death folk (google that and be amazed). 

Again, it it weren't for all our friends we would have had a lonely evening, so-----

Thank You to all who came, sent well wishes and pottery photos

and gave us presents. We probably didn't get to talk to everyone but we did try.

Thanks also to Nick Hoover and Jess Holland: 'Death Folk' for their amazing and beautiful music;


The Brew Coffee House in Ellison Bay for the delectable Ooo Laalaa's and coffee, Island Orchard Cider House for the best cider ever and


Scott McEvoy Culinaria for making that yummy paella which everyone raved about.



Thanks to Martha Beller of Tweak, who gave us good advice; to Pat Keenan Graphic Design for her artwork in our ads, to the Peninsula Pulse and Kathleen Maci for that glowing article about John.


Thanks most of all to our children- Vanya, Tim and Carly, Shannon and Ella and granddaughters Taylor and Isabelle--everyone got a chance to help us prepare and host this party and for that we are forever proud and grateful.  



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'Living the Potter's Life" by Kathleen Maci

Time has a way of shaping a person, much like clay in a potter's hands. And as trends change, often the potter and his work will change. So it goes with potter John Dietrich, owner of Ellison Bay Pottery, who has been working with clay, glazes and paints for close to a half a century.

His parents, Tom and Margaret Dietrich, were painters and his father used to teach at The Clearing during summers allowing young John to spend memorable weeks in the open spaces of Ellison Bay picking cherries and playing with Lee Telfer. He smiles as he tells me that 10 days before graduating from Lawrence University back in the 1960s he finally took a pottery class "mostly for an easy credit," but, he adds, "I fell in love with throwing – the process of throwing."

Unannounced in 1968 he contacted Abe Cohn at the Potters Wheel about being his assistant.

"Six years later, in the summer of 1974," Dietrich continues with a reflective gaze, "during the last year of my apprenticeship with Abe, he tells me, it's about time, meaning – time to get my own studio."

Determined to follow his mentor's advice he went to get a plat book at the bank in Sister Bay where he struck up a conversation with teller Ruth Telfer about her grandfather's barn and 10 acres of property on Garrett Bay Road, a place that conjured up fond memories of his childhood.

"Finding out the barn and property was available for sale I did what any rational person would do – I went to Wilson's for a cherry Coke," Dietrich recalls with a smile. Thus began Dietrich's pottery career in Ellison Bay.

"Unbeknownst to me I was much like a painter, applying colors while the pot is still wet showing emotion and life. I layer color and texture. I wanted to express confidence, wanted to reflect shapes – in human and animals – the energy that naturally exists."

His parents were the benchmark of excellence. Everything he made he made first for his parents – if it wasn't good enough for his parents he would not sell it in his studio.

After 20 years of focused pottery work he met his wife, Diane McNeil in 1994, while singing with the Peninsula Chamber Singers; he was a tenor and McNeil an alto. McNeil was a dairy farmer in Baileys Harbor, divorced with four children. Dietrich had never been married.

"Those were challenging days," McNeil recalls. "It was a difficult adjustment for the children." Yet, clearly, their art has been a bond. McNeil previously was a bead artist and writer, now she is a clay artist in her own right. Together they work not only on creating but educating customers.

"In today's generation," McNeil interjects, "there's less emphasis on working with one's hands. More often than not people do not understand the process of art, the amount of steps and work that goes into each one-of-a-kind piece. They think if they buy six mugs they can bargain – there's no understanding that the same amount of time goes into making each mug."

The heyday of artists in Door County goes back to the 1980s – and today's customers tend to purchase smaller pieces such as bowls, cups, mugs, vases and candleholders.

Most interesting is the thought that Dietrich and McNeil put into their creations. Take for example, the mug. Dietrich tells me customers want a mug with a handle that feels good – that is ergonomically correct. "Look at the shape of your thumb – the design element of it – the handle of a mug should mimic this design." He holds up his thumb showing off its shapes and tells me that he is always thinking thoughts – exploring new shapes and ideas. "We want our work to function."

Diane McNeil's pottery pieces are a result of hand-building rather than throwing, and they have a whimsical quality to them – like the curved birdhouse infused with movement.

Together they continue to build upon the legacy Dietrich began 40 years ago when he began giving back to the community. Dietrich, while a member of the Men's Club in Ellison Bay helped raise money to build the gazebo, the ballpark and the skating rink. He was director and exhibitor for Olde Ellison Bay Days Art Fair from 1980 to 1995.

To celebrate Dietrich's ongoing legacy in Ellison Bay, McNeil is planning a 40th celebration of his clay art and business on Aug. 24. There will be coffee and Oo LaLa's (lingonberries, dark chocolate, brie and cream cheese in puff pastry) from Brew Coffeehouse, cider from Island Orchard Cider, music from Nick Hoover and Jess Holland from 4 – 7 pm, and a photo booth for people to take selfies while holding pieces of pottery.

McNeil also asks that long-time customers send photos of their John Dietrich collection to so those can be shared at the celebration.

As a final note McNeil says, "Everyone and their mother is invited, even if it's only to listen to Nick and Jess!"


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Potter's Pets and Other Shenanigans

Bibi, the Maine Coon, supervising John's throwing.
Albion, one of the early cats, looks to be sizing this space up for a cozy hide-away.
John and Harry Hybert working on the side porch with Snuffles keeping an eye out for ________?
It wasn't always serious ART WORK around here.  

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What's the 40th Anniversary Party Story?


Sunday August 24 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm is our 40th Anniversary Party AND also John's 71st Birthday Party. Of course, we are planning some special treats for everyone.

Beverages by Island Orchard Cider

Coffee and Desert by Brew Coffeehouse

Music by Jess Holland and Nick Hoover

This is John's first poster for Ellison Bay Pottery that his Mother, Margaret Dietrich, created for him in 1975. It's a pen and ink drawing of John's first studio. 

Here is John in the mid-80's. Behind him you can see his ubiquitous 3x5 cards that was his order system.  He uses the same system minus the clothes pins. It's worked for all these years so why change. 

1980's Porch

                                                                                   2014 Porch 


What you can do-------------

Bring (or email) pictures of your John Dietrich pottery collection so I can include them in the book I'm making for John.


Be prepared to enter our PHOTO BOOTH Where you can take a candid picture of yourself holding some current pottery.

You can leave a comment in the Guest Book too. We'd love to hear your stories and memories.  

Keep up with all the changes and additions by LIKING our Facebook Page.





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Hand-thrown Stoneware Mug Contest - Who Really Won?

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on our Facebook Page

The responses were amazing, the entries were heart-warming and funny! 

It's possible that we are the real winners here.  But the Winner is Joni W. who suggested we mail this mug to our dear friend Michael B. who moved away from Door County. The criteria: Posting a Comment; Liking our post and Sharing with Friends and Ms. Joni met all those and more. Thanks Joni W. 

I'd consider myself the real winner here. So many people shared their stories with me and everyone else. Each story changed my day, enriched my life and gave me joy. Thank You to everyone who took the time to share. Wish we could give you all a mug. 



The Entries! and The MUG!


Hand-Thrown Stoneware Mug (10oz) by John Dietrich with his glaze: Anagama Red
1. Nancy:  Love the colors that are reflective of DC. We are celebrating 31 years of marriage and total happiness while in DC. Door reflects harmony, peace and nature as does this pottery.
2. Kimberly L. Anderson:  I would give it to my husband who loves Door County in honor of our     32 years of marriage and the seven best kids the Lord has blessed us with! We honeymooned in Door Co in 1982. 
3. ArianaandMom Pensy:  My daughter and I would give it to my dad (grampy!). My parents introduced me to Door County 33 years ago, when I was a child. It was love at first sight and I have been coming there multiple times per year ever since. It always felt like leaving home when I had to leave. My daughter is 10 years old and she has been in Door County multiple times per year every year of her life and she loves it as much as I do. My parents became permanent residents of Door County two years ago; they used to live in the same town as we do. We have missed being together and have visited them several times per year and always felt like we were leaving home when we had to leave there. But, life is very good and my daughter and I have sold our home and next week - in 8 days to be exact! - we are moving into our new home in Door County! We will now be permanent residents of Door County! Finally and at last after all these years, we are coming home for good to where we always knew home to be! My dad (and mom too!) has helped us a great deal to be able to do this and we feel so lucky! It feels like having been away for a long, long time and now we are finally coming home to Door County - a one way trip this time! Dad (Grampy!) is AWESOME!  xo
4. Karen:  I would present it to my husband John of almost 44 years. We love Door County! Have spent many summer weekends camping in the Door when our children were young. We continue to take summer rides to the Door, enjoying every mile and every minute.
5. pottery by ... Debra: I would give it to my husband ... he keeps stealing my mugs. Even though I do enjoy my work, I also LOVE and appreciate work from others and enjoy adding it our growing eclectic collection of mugs !
6. Patty:  I would give it to my boyfriend of 11 years, while we have no children of our own we do have four fur babies and he loves them and me unconditionally even when we are at our worst!
7. Gini:  My husband needs that mug because we collect unusual, beautiful mugs. When our friends come over they love to go to the cupboard and pick out their favorite mug. This mug would be a great addition. Maybe my husband wouldn't let anyone use it. It has the perfect handle.
8. Daniel-Beth:I would give this mug to my kids so they could give it to me. What can I say, it's a cool mug and I don't have one. Just being honest.
9. Tamara: I do believe my partner slash husband deserves a strong cup like this one. He loves clay objects! His kids live away and I would give him this gift in their honor and he would invoke their spirits in his presence whenever he would use it!
10. Sue: Actually, I'd be hard pressed to give it away at all. I love it.
11. Kim: If love to give this to an amazing dad, my husband.
12. Su: My Dad needs this mug because he introduced me to pottery in every facet - took me to see potters at work and introduced me to his favourite artists. This is big handled for his hands and he'd savor the wonderful deep colours..
13. Mickey: I would like it for myself.
14. Rosane:  First choice would be to give it to me as it would be soothing to drink my fresh brewed from tea leaves from it. But would give it to my wonderful son who took me to a tea tasting for Mother's Day and has taught me to appreciate the drink more. But most of all because he is my rock since we lost his dad.
15.  Carol: So dad has past..but to be honest I would use it myself..something comforting bout drinking coffee from a beautiful cup
16. Jana: I would give this to my husband because he has what we call "Fred Flintstone fingers" and it looks like his fingers would fit this mug for his morning coffee!!
17. Liz:  I would give it to my husband so he would start drinking coffee. If this great mug won't get him to start drinking coffee on the deck with me, nothing will!
18. Carol: Amazing answers! Exquisite piece! Love it!!
19. Klaudia: To my wonderful dad ! Who build us house with his bare hands in Europe, got us out of communist country and misses me after I moved to door county ... This great mug would remind him of me when he has his coffee 
20. Sandy: I would give it to my husband because I love him very much and want something beautiful to remind him of me when he travels. Perhaps it would even coax his Texas heart to visit my Door County with me!
21. Connie:  I would give this mug to my dear friend Rudy Scheerer who will be 96 this December and still makes his own cup of coffee every morning and is the kindest man I know and would do anything to help anyone who needs it.
22. Cara: Perfect for my brother in law who buys a piece every year in DC but can't go this year due to a stroke...
23. Holly: I would give this to my husband Jerry. Not because he drinks a lot of beverages or would even appreciate such a beautiful piece of art. But because my husband is just the kind of guy who knows how much I love it and would immediately give it to me! By the way, I got a riding lawn mower for Mothers Day!
24. Jackie: I would give this to the best man in my life, my dad. He helps my husband and I at our Bait Shop a couple days a week. He's the smartest man I know, (yup even more than my husband, lol). The funny thing about my dad helping us is he never takes any money for his time, and always pays for his bait and stuff he needs for fishing. He's the best fisherman I know too. His first day working, he brought this little coffee cup from home to keep in the cupboard at the bait shop, to drink the DC coffee I make every morning, so as not to use a paper cup every time he comes. His cup is probably only the size of an 8 oz measuring cup! I love seeing that cup in the cupboard on the days he's not there. I may have even used it a couple times...
26. Chris: I would give it to my husband because I love him
27. Susan: Love it
28. Joni: Michael B. needs this mug to drink a Guinness in after he chills it in the freezer down in Kansas City ! Then each time he uses it he can miss Door County anew!
29. Bonnie: I would give it to my husband Tom. He drinks his coffee from an ancient plastic mug from Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee. I don't want him to die of plastic poisoning.
30. Colleen: My husband married me and became a dad instantly to my two children. He has been an amazing husband and father. Because of him my kids learned the true meaning of unconditional love and saw what a true father looked like. He would love this!
31. Stefanie: My hubby needs this! It looks like a perfect size to fit some cold beer in it!
32. Annie: Looks like mine!!! 
33. Heather: my daddy...he always makes sure to keep my own cup full ...i would want to make sure his was bigger than i can keep his full in his later years of life
Unlike · Reply · 1 · June 11 at 9:04pm
34. Carla: I would say my bro-in-law but really, I would want to keep it for myself. It looks to be the same coloring as all the other pieces that I own from your studio. Surprisingly, I have no mugs! 

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Bowls. Bowls. Bowls.

The best part about this year's challenge to make one of a kind bowls?

Making the bowls, of course. 

John began the series by throwing the bowls and altering the edges and shapes. There was one afternoon when we worked together, like the call and response you hear in music. He'd do something, I'd do something, then he'd react to it. That was probably my favorite day. Some of what we did turned out well and others were, well, interesting, but all of them tell a story. It's up to you to 'hear' it.

(starting at the top) Green Squares $34; Gold Squares $34; Green Smiley Face $34 Green Cosmic $34. The Green Smiley Face and all the other smiley faces are in honor of my artist brother, Dean, who passed away last fall. The smiley face was one of his recurring images and I wanted to explore that as well.                       

( left to right) Green River Smiley $34; Turquoise Smiley $34; Turquoise/Green River $34. the last bowl was a very happy experiment. We used two copper green glazes together for the first, but not last, time. Really excited to explore this further in this firing cycle. 


 (L-R) Multi-Glazed Leaves $40; Blue Squares on Blue $34; Cosmic Fake Ash Green and Blue $34. The bowls with Leaves is also a 'firsts' bowl. First for those two glazes, first for those leaves and first for all the bumpy textures. 


Starting with the largest bowl $80, $48, $34. After John throws each bowl he applies the color using colored clay slip. In these bowls he brushes cobalt blue and then chrome green on as the bowl goes around and around. This way the colors are both individual and blended slightly. Then he uses a smaller brush to apply a translucent porcelain clay and rutile (the sparkly gold). Finally he applies the white porcelain line pulling the whole image together. 


One of the interesting experiments we tried was using a glaze called Simple on other colors besides copper red. It gives GOOD red consistently and we love it. This last firing we applied it to cobalt blue. That large Cosmic Blue bowl ($80) is so intensely blue it verges on black. The same Simple glaze is on that small cosmic bowl on the R $40. The Chun Blue in the front $40 and the smallest one, also Chun Blue $34 are a brighter, almost happier, blue. But the new blue--fabulous. 

 Cobalt Blue and Copper Red Cosmic $34

 Small Fake Ash and Chrome Green. The gold is that rutile which is less sparkly when this glaze is used. This matte glaze is elegant and classic. John wants to take an inert material - clay, and impart life and movement in and on each piece. He's been imbuing his pieces with parts of his heart and soul and he hasn't run out of either so far. Although this is a recognizable signature design, the new, the one of a kind-ness of this bowl is subtle. See if you can find the obvious one. $34


 One experiment, putting the Anagama Red glaze over chrome green, resulted in this deep and mysterious color. This is John's glaze recipe, one he created, so it's personal and our favorite. Many of our customers love this too. This is the first time we've used it with green and we won't forget how much we fell for this one. $34

 Deep deep bowls, so I took two photos of these lined up. I wanted you to see the inside glaze BUT I also wanted that visual of the 4 bowls standing there, repeating. Each is $34

 Sold the smallest one yesterday. All four were either a new size, shape or had altered edges. John really likes bending those edges. I guess we could say he's edgy, but I'd rather not be that obvious. I like the way the glaze breaks on the rims, like it's framing each bowl. $38 for each


 These bowls are residing on one of the tie-dyed table-clothes we brought home from China last fall. The Smiley Face is $34, the one to the left is $48 and the one on the right is $48 as well. Three different blues, three different pieces of functional art.  

These are perfect for noodle bowls. We had to try them, they are so new so we finally tried them out a few days ago. Perfect for noodles or soup. Nice and deep. $40 each 


 A bit smaller and these are some that got us all excited, stepping out of our comfort zone and into a new realm. Not even sure what any of this means or where we'll go with it. $34 each

 Deep and different, like the ones above a bit. $40 each. We have only two of each glaze.

There are many many smiley faces everywhere on this. The eyes, nose and mouth are a mix of green and red, though I intended this to be all red. Kiln gods are part of the equation, I was reminded, once again. $48

 $34 Blue squares on a porcelain background and sparkly gold flowers.There are flecks of red, can you see? Crazy. 

 White squares on blue and red flowers. $34 I might make more of these, since I am stuck on repeating images this year. 

 John used a different matte glaze on a Cosmic design and got a really interesting blue. And the glaze had some interesting effect on the creamy white parts. $40

 $34 Dark dark blue squares on green background with abstract white lines. The combination of the green and blue with this new glaze gave me an idea for something else, which I just love. 

 These Cosmic bowls, each $34 with wavy edges and  different colored slips applied. I'd keep them just to look at them. So I dust them and enjoy instead. 

 I really loaded this up with rutile and glaze and it mixed just right. This photo just can't capture to depth $48


Small $34 bowls. John threw these and I applied the dots. Boy did I ever. The 2nd from the right sold yesterday as well. 


And the whole experience? John and I aren't done yet. We've been talking and comparing ideas and more importantly, we've been listening. Our customers, you, give us valuable feedback. It may be the most important ingredient in what we do. Our inspiration is all around us, and the response from our audience is what keeps us going. 

Leave a comment or suggestion. It will be like you're here, in the gallery, and we're talking about pets and pottery. Our favorite subjects. 



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