Orcas Island Pottery
Opened in 1945, Orcas Island Pottery lays claim to being the oldest pottery shop in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been owned by two families, has had four generations throw pottery in its studio, and has undergone two remodels — one in 1969 to expand the studio space and again in the 1990s after a kiln fire. Orcas Island Pottery is 3.5 miles from Eastsound on a clearing overlooking President’s Channel in an old-growth forest of cedar and Douglas firs. From the gravel parking lot visitors follow a foot path to the gardens where tables of pottery are displayed from May through October.
It’s a peaceful, secluded sanctuary ideal for churning creativity. The gardens and shop persuade shoppers to linger, making for an enjoyable shopping experience.
Owner and “Glaze Queen of Orcas Island Pottery,” Sydney Exton, grew up watching her mother and grandmother make pottery. The family bought the business in 1953 and now Exton’s son, Matt Haeuser, finds himself making pottery in the studio. Exton seeks potters who are fairly accomplished in an effort to keep the quality of their products up. Right now, the studio potters include Mike Rozzi and Penny Sharp Sky. Additionally, Bellingham’s Levi Vincent and a handful of other artists show their work at the store, bringing their products in large hauls to the island.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
Orcas Island Pottery sells high-fire, high-quality pottery that looks beautiful and will survive the microwave, dishwasher, and oven. Customers find both functional and purely decorative pieces in various styles and a tapestry of colors: cobalt blues blending with pale-sky blues, fiery reds, spicy orange tones, and deep royal purples alongside stark white. There are organically shaped bowls and mugs in neutral and earth tones, but also perfectly straightedged drinking vessels in bright yellows. On the walls hang skinny wall vases that have room for a vibrant stem or two. Fashion-forward shoppers should check out Michell DeLong’s jewelry. The shelves are lined with colorful garlic pots, butter pots for storing spreadable butter, sponge holders, ramekins, and salt holders that make cooking a more enjoyable experience. Entertainers will love the smart wine bottle coasters to catch those inevitable drips. Finally, in the garden after taking in the incredible view of President’s Channel, stop to admire the whimsical garden gnomes, made by Victoria Green.
Exton didn’t hesitate to point out the Grecian style vases and oversized plates that she’s come to love, especially the wonderful wood ash glazed plates by Craig Martell and colorful wall plates by Matthew Patton. The pieces showcase a mastery of artistry in the piece lines, colors, and pottery technique.