One of my favorite places to visit on Orcas Island is Orcas Island Pottery. This place is unique, creative, and truly fabulous. I remember coming here as a child with my mother. I would stand and watch Julia Crandall as she worked on her potter’s wheel. I loved the way she threw the clay onto the moving stone; the way her hands formed the lump into something recognizable and beautiful; the way she’d move her fingers to subtly change the pot; the way her fingers, wetted, orange, and dripping, lent validation to every mud pie I’d ever made.
Truly, she was a queen to children everywhere who had ever tried to form something – anything – worth keeping in the world of pliable playdough, clay, or sand. In my memory, at least, she was a small woman, her graying hair perpetually in a bun (I may be wrong about the bun, but that’s how I see her!) her hands always working. In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s car…but hers was especially recognizable with her “Pots 4 U” license plate long before the days of abbreviated text messages.
It is her granddaughter now, who owns and runs Orcas Island Pottery. As her website describes it, she threw her first pot at age five, learning everything about the art of pottery from her mother and grandmother. She employs several permanent potters and guest potters from all over the country and world. The quality and beauty of their work is outstanding.
It is, however, their location – right on the ocean front – and their method of displaying their work that takes your breath away. Even the drive to the studio and store is magnificent – a meandering, shadowy journey through mossy old-growth evergreens and ferns. I used to walk part of this road every week on my way to piano lessons. I remember making the walk last as long as possible – whether trying to delay my lesson or enjoying the woods, I cannot say for certain.
There are many pottery places on Orcas Island, and I have not visited them all, but I freely admit that I am biased towards Orcas Island Pottery not just for my memories of the place, but also for the creativity which is evident all around you the moment you draw near. This originality is seen in their road signs, in their displays – both indoors and out – and in their encouragement of children – as seen in the whimsical and magical treehouse which everyone, old and young alike, are allowed to visit. Make no mistake, this treehouse is built to keep parents sane – and pottery safe, perhaps? – giving people of all ages something to do at the pottery store.
Orcas Island Pottery is, most definitely, one of the wonderfully unique things about Orcas Island. Now if I could just choose what pieces to buy…and not keep buying them to give as wedding presents…I would be a happy girl. Because truly, having a piece of this pottery is like having a wee bit of the island on your breakfast table.
And so I give you a journey through the woods and onto the glorious property that is Orcas Island Pottery!
If ever you find yourself on Orcas Island…or in need of a wedding gift to buy on-line…or just in need of something marvelous for your very own, check out Orcas Island Pottery’s website. It has a nice write-up of the interesting history of the opperation as well – definitely worth reading!