As Time Goes By: Three Area Artists Celebrate Milestones

It’s not easy being an artist in Door County. As a result, reaching a significant anniversary for an arts-related business is much more than the average milestone.

It’s been a long strange trip for Ellison Bay Pottery. 30 years ago, potter John Dietrich purchased 10 acres of the old Driftwood Farms and began converting the apple storage barn into his studio. There was no plumbing and no heat, but John reflects fondly that the property was everything he ever wanted, even without such luxuries. Only after the studio was in place, did John turn his attention to remodeling an area for living quarters. Exactly twenty years later, John married Diane Me Neil (also a clay artist, and former dairy farmer). Today, the two are happily creating functional and decorative pottery, experimenting with pit fired ceramics, and living a dream at their studio/ gallery/home. Both are fond of the saying, “What is not fun, should not be done.” No wonder 30 years seem to have elapsed in the blink of an eye.

25 years ago, Gary Kiracofe and Dawn Sandusky were newlyweds running a hotel and a sawmill on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 1979, Mackinac Island was already becoming a popular location for entrepreneurs and artists to set up shops and studios, and the couple jumped at the chance to open their own shop — Scrimshanders. Dawn recalls that they had just purchased their first home and had had their first baby. “I was horrified when Gary wanted to borrow $5,000 to start the business,” Dawn laughs, “but we made the money back our first year. .. and then some.”

In 1993, they opened their second shop, in Ephraim. Their kids have grown up, but Gary and Dawn are still having fun in Ephraim, creating miniature scrimshaw masterpieces — and finding impressive works from craftspeople dedicated to the traditions of the 19th century American seafarers.

Scrimshanders, Ephriam, Door County, art in Door County
Inside Scrimshanders

Pipka Ulvilden had already been creating her popular images and figurines of Santa for some time — when everything else changed 10 years ago. “I was a folk artist and teacher, and there was such a response to what I was doing, that I began to feel rather ambitious. I started sending resumes and photos of my work to large gift and collectible companies.” Pipka finally received a response from a small company, Prizm, Inc., who wanted to produce her designs.

The partnership between Pipka and Prizm has been a huge success, producing and then distributing Pipka’s famous designs for limited edition collectible Santa figurines to over 1,600 stores nationwide.

Ellison Bay Pottery is located across from The Clearing at 12156 Garrett Bay Road, Ellison Bay. Call (920) 854-5049, or visit

Scrimshanders is located in the Green Gables Shops on Highway 42 in Ephraim. For information, call (920) 854-5407, or visit www. scrimshanders. com.

Pipka’s Gallery is located in the heart of Sister Bay, just off Highway 42 at 334 Mill Rd. Call (920)854-4392 for information, or visit

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