Orcas Island Pottery

21 Aug

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.

A sign hanging inside one of the buildings.

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.

The woods are “Lovely, dark and deep”.

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!

A sign along the road…

We’re here!

Sighted along the path…

I remember this Native American whale from when I was a kid!

It seems as if fairies ought to live here…

Did I mention that there’s a treehouse on the premises to keep children (young ones and grown-up ones) occupied?! LOVE THIS.

How great is this place?!

The most lovely wee doggie you’ll ever meet. Patient, persistant (but not obnoxious) and quiet.

The island in the background is Waldron.

I simply adore the outdoor displays. And yes, in case you’re wondering, they’re outdoors year-round, regardless of the weather.

The “Sale Boat” was pretty well picked-over.

A huge variety of styles, colors, shapes.


Yes, the kitty is real.

I’d like to eat rice out of these bowls!

Everywhere you look, amazing things await.

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!


17 Responses to “Orcas Island Pottery”

  1. hotlyspiced August 21, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    I love Orcas Island! It’s so beautiful. I especially love that tree-house. I’d love to visit and just wander around. It looks so peaceful and serene xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 21, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      It really is a great place. The top speed limit on the island is 40 mph – and that’s only in a few places – usually it’s more like 25! It’s drier than Seattle is, and cooler, too. And yes, it is peaceful!

  2. Stefan (maxima) August 21, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    I love you blog,It’s so beautiful.

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots August 21, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Oh, my gosh, what a place, what art, what beauty. Everywhere. No wonder you miss Orcas Island.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 21, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      Now you know why I got that mug for you in June – it reminded me of “home” even though it was from my “new” home instead of my old one!

  4. Andrea August 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Your sister Jenny gave us as a wedding gift a beautiful blue vase from Orcas Island Pottery.

  5. treadlemusic August 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Gorgeous post! I can see myself spending much time there and much $$$ (telling myself that the purchases would be ‘gifts’ but really would be kept!!-D). Love the “Sale Boat”!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 21, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      I know, I love puns! The thing that keeps me from spending money is knowing that I have to get the things home, which always makes me nervous! HOWEVER…they ship and the stuff came through wonderfully! 🙂

      • treadlemusic August 22, 2012 at 7:26 am #

        That is one thing I learned years ago…..UPS is my friend! Traveling by motorcycle allows no extra purchases (especially fragile ones) but shipping is offered, many times, at no charge!!!! Love it!

        • Gretchen O'Donnell August 22, 2012 at 7:46 am #

          Yes…motorcycles make for bad places to carry pottery, I imagine!

        • treadlemusic August 22, 2012 at 8:14 am #


  6. Nancy Cook August 22, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Thank you, Gretchen, for that fabulous tour and write-up! I want to go there!!! Enjoy your quiet home and time!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 22, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks, Nancy! Perhaps you ought to consider a trip?!! And I am enjoying it…though it’s still weird!

  7. whatimeant2say August 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Beautiful! Any place with a sweet dog, a treehouse, and a sale boat is tops in my book!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: