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Pottery Thoughts

The Early Years: Camping in the Barn


The first years after 1974 here were almost like camping.
John had no running water, just a cold water hose from Sid Telfer's house. No indoor plumbing; instead he had a four holer and a five holer outhouse, which were still approved. He heated the barn, which was not insulated, with a huge wood burning stove. 
Each morning John would wake up, cozy in his sleeping bag, and contemplate the morning ritual to come. 
If he hadn't had supportive, understanding and patient friends making their warm bathrooms available to John for showering etc. he might not have had such an easy time of it. 
That first winter didn't have much pottery making going on. The 'studio', such as it was, was too cold. He focused on remodeling the studio and gallery instead, and kept himself warm with cross country skiing, something he was passionate about. 
His dad, artist Tom Dietrich, was newly retired from Lawrence University, and was very helpful during the remodeling process. There were also volleyball games at the Gibraltar school during the winter. Getting out and doing something else kept mind and body together.
But the goal, always, was to get back to the wheel, so most of the days were devoted to that end. No matter how cold the water or clay got, there was a way to warm up and get to potting.

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Ask The Potter--How Do You Throw Goblets

We've decided that learning about the process of anything gives us a better appreciation for the finished product. We have many artist friends and often all we talk about is the new process we've learned. We all can't get enough of that. 

That's why we open our studio to anyone twice a week during our summer season here In Door County so they can watch John throw pottery and ask all the questions they want, even the silly ones. Those often turn out to be the best ones. 

Today we'll share our two videos on the goblet process. First, John throws a few goblets and the Second one shows him trimming it and applying his artful designs. 

And your job? Ask the Potter--John--anything, about pottery, you want. 

Throwing Stoneware Goblets

Trimming and Decorating Stoneware Goblets


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Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve - Valentine's Day Party at our Gallery

We're doing it again:

Having a Valentine's Day Party in support of Women's Heart Health.

We're calling it 'Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve'.

The details are pretty simple:

  • Come to our gallery Friday or Saturday February 7 and 8 from 11-4 wearing RED and we'll surprise you with a GIFT.  That's right, a gift just for wearing red and visiting our gallery.
  • When you purchase anything in the gallery I'll donate 10% of that total sale to my National Wear Red Day Fundraising Page.
  • If you can't make it for the Party, then click on the link and donate what you can to my fundraising page.
  • If  you chose to shop here on our website, then I'll take 10% of that purchase and ship you the gift too!
  • Refreshments! Could be the most important detail, right?  Cherry juice and heart healthy and gluten free cookies with, you guessed it, dark chocolate and almonds.

Another Heart Healthy yummy we suggest would be some Red Wine, but I bet you know where to get that. We can recommend any of the great Door County Wineries and they do ship. Here's a link to the Door County Visitor's Bureau website with a complete listing of wineries.  We love them all.

Please shop and enjoy and we'll do the rest!





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The Joy of Winter at our Pottery in Door County

                       It's quiet at our pottery in Door County in the winter. I don't mean no customers. I mean, it's QUIET. The snow muffles the noise cars and other vehicles make. And softens the grinding and scraping noises the snowplow makes while it's cleaning the highway.
                        When I take the dogs out first thing in the morning, before the sun is even up, I can hear the little chickadees and nut-hatches and other winter birds chirping or otherwise talking to each other, or maybe to themselves.
                          Snowfall at night is another time I like to escape our warm and cozy barn. Sometimes I leave those puppies inside so I can focus on the sound snow makes falling on the snowy ground. Or feel each flake touch my face. I've never grown out of the whole magic of snow and my fear of slipping on ice hasn't crushed my appreciation of winter's beauty.
                       Getting back into the studio means making lists of products to make, inventory holes that need filling, brainstorming new ideas and eliminating products that just didn't get the response we hoped for. Taxes. Paperwork. Accountants.
                    BIDNESS takes over and soon I stop going outside for fun and only for a run to the Post Office. I spend too much time here, online, managing our online presence and not enough time in the studio. John spends all his time in the studio with breaks to clear snow, haul out wood-ash and haul in wood for our wood stove.
                     So that's why this afternoon I grabbed my phone and John, slipped my naked feet in my big snow boots and slipped outside with my fleecy red robe over my clothes so John could take some photos of me reading and sipping coffee while sitting on my bench on our circle. It's where you will find me as the early morning sun peeks over our building when the weather is finer. Grabbing a quiet moment before the hullabaloo of the season propels us forward to another wonderful, quiet, beautiful winter day in the snow.
We're open every day here in the winter but we don't get too many adventurous souls down Garrett Bay Rd. Those who do usually ask us what there is to do up here all winter. There are other questions but this is probably number one.
It's pretty busy up here with music and theater, silent sports and raucous broom-ball, learning and volunteering everywhere. We focus on reading, walking, napping, visiting and filling our shelves with more beautiful pottery that makes our life wonderful, and yours, too.

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Shipping Pottery - Our Holiday Tradition

Shipping pottery, admittedly one of the most important parts of our business, isn't rocket science, but there is as much anxiety.

Our pottery lives or dies by the 'Rule of 3'.

Three inches of packing material surround the pot, which is in it's own little box suspended in another box. Sometimes John has to construct boxes, so a little creativity is necessary. We count on this Rule to get the orders delivered safely.

We find bags of peanuts and stacks of boxes on our porch delivered personally by our friends and neighbors. A few local businesses will call us when it's our turn to get their boxes and peanuts. We are happy to recycle everything they give us.  There are times, though, when this serendipitous system fails us, and sometimes it happens when we need the stuff badly.

It takes just a few moments to transform our pottery studio into a shipping department and it usually happens after we're done glazing and while the pottery is being fired in our kiln.

First, John cleans the studio of all the detritus of glazing. Drips and drops of glaze can be found on the floor, walls, our clothing, our glasses, our hair after several days of glazing. Though we do shower regularly during glazing week, we don't clean the studio until we are all done and the pots are loaded.

After washing off the table, John goes up into the storage area above the gallery where extra inventory and most of our packing materials reside. In the winter this unheated room is, well, cold. The fluorescents flicker, casting shadows everywhere. There are probably mice somewhere watching John moving boxes around.

It's like a treasure hunt up there. He knows what he's shipping, so he looks for the right sizes. But, all the boxes don't necessarily fit so there is the trusty box cutter to cut boxes down to size. And the tape gun, one of my favorite tools, puts everything together.

Huge bags of packing peanuts, know 'affectionately' as ghost poo, are poured into the boxes. Sometimes a small dog has settled onto one of the bags and John has to nudge her off. Boxes are nestled into boxes, business cards and candy are placed carefully and the tape gun seals the flaps down.

I'm upstairs printing labels on three different sites, nervously matching the addresses and the pottery. And double-checking everything, twice, like Santa. Only it's not as much fun, since a mistake can cause too many interesting moments.

Finally, boxes are sealed. Labels are in the pouches and on the boxes. Boxes are in the van.  John transports the boxes two blocks to the Post Office.

He returns, empty handed.

The studio looks like a cyclone went through it. The office floor is littered with slips and scraps of paper. Lunch is cold as is the coffee.

Christmas starts.....NOW 





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2014 is our 40th Anniversary at EBP---THE YEAR OF THE BOWL 2014


Just a fast post to announce that 2014 is many things, but the most important is that it will be our 40th year here in Ellison Bay.

John bought the barn in 1974 and it took him almost 3 years to get the well and septic in. Camping in the barn--sounds like fun, right?

We also Announce that 2014 will be THE YEAR OF THE BOWL.

This year, 2013, was THE YEAR OF THE MUG, and it was such a success and so much fun we've decided to repeat the challenge of making 100 one of a kind bowls.  Since we've already committed to one of kind China Bowls for those who joined us earlier this year, and which you can still become a part of, it seemed to be a seamless move to expanding this and BOWLING everyone over.

Sorry, John's the pun-ner and I am not, so you are stuck with my lame efforts.

I'll be sure to post more as we know more about our year.

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A Potter's Life: What we learned in China: Part One

There is good and bad food in China, just like here. The good food was very very good--like street food. Mmm. The bad was just UGH!
I should have brought more warm clothes. It was gray and gloomy for most of the trip.This didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves and doing what we wanted, of course.
Chinese pottery is mostly traditional pottery. Students learn from masters to follow what has been done before and to never vary. Students chafed at this. This made for interesting conversations.
Traveling with people we hardly know was easier than I thought. Probably because we were organized by the itinerary not created by us. There is a freedom in not having a say in what we do, where we go and when. I have to say we were always running late!
Two weeks, with three days in each place, is not enough time. We knew this going over and our bodies did get tired of moving all the time. It was grand fun, though.
Symbolism and metaphors are everywhere. Everything means something. History is alive in China.
A nice student at the Art Fair in Jingdezhen, China
gave us a short tour of the best ceramics by contemporary potters while she practiced her English. And then she offered to take our photo.
Absorbing everything we saw, everything we ate, everywhere we went, everyone we spoke to takes up a lot of time. We get to tell our story and each time we learn something or remember something. It's going to take all winter to actually process it all. But the most important lesson so far is that we are indeed a part of an old and honorable tradition--the clay tradition. We have a responsibility to the potters before us and to those who follow us.

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15th Annual Holiday Open House -- Thanksgiving Weekend in Ellison Bay

Welcome to our 15th Holiday Open House.  We started this Holiday Open House tradition after we both lost parents that year and decided we'd find a way to spend more time with our family that weekend. John and I take turns personing the gallery and working in the studio and watching the games or shopping with sisters in law.  Now it's a fun and relaxed weekend.

A few years later Ellison Bay Arts was formed and many of the galleries and schools and culinary arts people would participate in the Holiday Open House (read last year's blog). Each year is different, but the core group: Clay Bay Pottery, Gills Rock Stoneware, us, and Turtle Ridge Gallery plus the Island Orchard Cider, are getting ready for an art-filled weekend.

We look forward to seeing you here.



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