Potter Tony Gebauer of TR Pottery in Fish Creek leans over a work-in-progress, the top portion of a large vessel. He measures the width of the piece, “I’m aiming for 13 and an 1/8 inches,” he explains to those observing through an open partition, separating the dusty studio housing two kilns, dirty rags, and shelves of ceramic pieces awaiting firing from the clean, immaculate gallery, showcasing a variety of finished, functional pieces: hand cups, mugs, pitchers, bowls, vases, and more.
Renée Gebauer, Tony’s wife and business partner, explains Tony’s process to curious customers as he holds a torch to his piece. “He firms it up, so he can invert it on the other piece,” she says. “You can let it dry on its own, but this is more efficient. You get excited about making a piece; you want to finish it.”
Tony prepares to merge the two pieces. A silence falls on the observers, aside from one woman who whispers, “Holy smokes. Unbelievable. Look at that. Oh my goodness,” as Tony flips the top piece on the bottom.
Creating large pots is a rare venture for the potter, who was employed as an elementary school teacher when he and his wife (also a teacher) signed up for classes at The Pot Shop in Evanston, Illinois. In 2001, they decided on a “lifestyle change,” as Renée puts it, moving up to Door County to open their studio/gallery.
Tony Gebauer developed his technique of creating large pots from fellow Door County potters including Rich Hidgon, who showcases at TR Pottery.
“There were four or five years I didn’t make any big pots, but then we said, ‘Let’s do a firing with primarily big pots,’” says Tony, who decided to demonstrate the process the first three Saturdays of March to the public. The last demonstration will take place March 17 from 1 – 3 pm.
TR Pottery is located at 4133 Main Street in Fish Creek. For more information and spring hours call 920.868.1024 or visit http://www.trpottery.com. The studio/gallery will be open fulltime by April 27.