“My entire career has circled around objects that are functional but also, I hope, beautiful and can stand on their own irrespective of whether they work functionally in a kitchen. I’ve come to embrace the idea that function extends beyond the home and kitchen – bringing beauty into being is a function, and is perhaps even more needed now than ever before. The interplay between something that works well, is designed well, and will last a long time but at the same time brings beauty into being for its entire lifetime, that’s the focus of the things I make.
I grew up in Elkhart, and when I started my first studio I joined Larion Swartzendruber, who is a woodcrafter, a woodworker. We thought that having two businesses making handmade products in one location would be a better draw for each of us. That was the precursor to The Old Bag Factory. The initial building was on North Second Street where the current county office complex is located. In 1984, we relocated from that place to the Old Bag Factory.
I didn’t necessarily think I’d want to be in Goshen my whole life, having grown up in this community. But I have family here, and once I started a business here I realized I had made a long-term commitment. Starting over anywhere is a formidable task, and I think I was lucky to survive the start-up, having no more business experience than I had. The further into my career that I got, the more formidable a change seemed to appear. Of course, being a part of something like the Bag Factory when it was at its best helped create a community of artists. And so without really knowing it, I was helping to develop the kind of place that I wanted to work and live in.
For long years, I was aware of the tour in Minnesota called the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. It’s one of grandmother/grandfathers of pottery tours in the United States. There are a couple of them, but St. Croix is perhaps the oldest and best known. Mark Goertzen and I talked for long years when I was still working at the Old Bag Factory studio about, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could create a similar kind of thing here?’ At that time, there weren’t enough local potters to make that really a viable option. But our presence here seemed to attract other potters, and over time as those numbers increased, the viability of actually having a pottery tour here grew as well. It was an idea that was active but latent in our imaginations for many years. Then at a point, Justin Rothshank and Mark and myself, and in the initial stages Todd Pletcher to a degree, gave some thought. Brandon ‘Fuzzy’ Schwartz joined the planning team after Todd left. Now the tour is in its ninth year. It’s proved to be positive in every respect. Because of COVID-19, we’re electing to do it virtually this year. ”