Pitner Ave., Evanston, IL 60202
The Potter’s Shop
Vince Muehlbauer, Owner
Artists, educators, and students from throughout the United States will stream into Milwaukee this March for the 48th Annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). The conference draws thousands of participants to its four-day schedule of lectures, demonstrations, workshops, and discussions. Local potter Vince Muehlbauer, of The Potter’s Shop in Waukesha, has crafted a special exhibit for the conference that features artists of special significance in his life.
The Potter’s Shop occupies a quaint storefront on Waukesha’s trendy Main Street. A suburb of Milwaukee, Waukesha has a long history in the arts. An art renaissance in the late 1990s helped the town to evolve into a tourist destination. Today, its streets sport many art studios and restaurants. The community is perhaps best known for its popular Art Crawls, sponsored by the local West End Artists Group.
Muehlbauer’s shop is a complete ceramic studio, school, gallery, and retail supply business. He purchased the eight-year-old business in January of 2013. An active ceramic artist, he works primarily in stoneware on the wheel, creating a mix of functional and sculptural pieces. He says, “I started taking pottery classes in high school and went on to the University of Wisconsin in LaCrosse, where I studied with potter Karen Terpstra. After I earned my degree, I took a job in sales and marketing, but really wanted to get back into pottery. I stumbled on The Potter’s Shop at just the right time.” He inherited a working business with a ready-made student body. He recalls, “It was a big learning experience for me. I had never taught before. It ended up helping me a lot in my own work, not only by practicing more, but by trying to clarify how I communicate techniques to the students.”
Classes at The Potter’s Shop are primarily at the beginner and intermediate level. Six-week sessions are offered for adults; children’s courses last five weeks. The 5,000 square-foot facility has 14 wheels, slab rollers, extruders, both gas and electric kilns, and a spray booth. For a monthly fee, experienced potters can take a membership as a “Studio Potter,” which entitles them to 24-hour access to the studio, seven days a week. Their work is displayed and offered for sale along with Muehlbauer’s in the on-site gallery. Many studio potters take on roles as instructors for the busy class schedule. There are generally 25 – 30 studio potters affiliated with the shop.
Muehlbauer says he usually gets to the wheel at least twice a week. Like many artist/business owners, he struggles to find a balance between creating art and running an active business. His wife Loni bears some of the load, handling the extensive accounting generated by the school, gallery, and retail shop. The Potter’s Shop offers a complete line of clay and supplies and serves as a resource for potters well beyond the Waukesha boundary. Muehlbauer says, “We sell a lot of clay and supplies, because there just isn’t anywhere else you can get it around here.”
This year’s NCECA conference offers Muehlbauer a chance to demonstrate the history of his life as a ceramic artist. “I’ve put together an exhibit,” he explains, “that features local Wisconsin artists who are important to me.” Starting with his past, he includes the work of his college professor Karen Terpstra, along with that of his high school art teacher, Peter Loose from Waukesha West High School. Loose’s instruction at the high school level inspired Muehlbauer to pursue a higher education in art. Terpstra is a well-known educator and artist who gives lectures and workshops in wood firing. Turning to his present life in Waukesha, Muehlbauer adds the work of Michael Imes, a professor at the local Carroll University, and includes a selection of work by The Potter’s Shop resident artists and students. With Waukesha only a short 20-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee, Muehlbauer hopes the exhibit will inspire conference participants to take a break and come out to explore what the community has to offer.
For more information about The Potter’s Shop, visit www.potteryinwaukesha.com.
For more information about upcoming Waukesha Art Crawls, visit http://www.waukeshaart.com/waukesha-art-crawl/.
Visit http://www.nceca.net/static/conference_home.php for up-to-date information about the 2014 NCECA conference.