Five Minutes with Tony Gebauer of TR Pottery
I had a chance to stop in at the very busy TR Pottery in Fish Creek recently, but that didn't stop owners Renée and Tony Gebauer from giving me (and my trusty 12-year-old sidekick) a warm welcome. There's something about the shapes and colors of Tony's pottery that make me feel at home the moment I walk into the shop, and I wanted to learn more about how he mastered his craft. Door County Arts and Culture Insider: How did you get started with pottery? Did you study art in college? Tony Gebauer: No, actually. Renée and I were living in Evanston, in a neighborhood with a clay studio. One night we were out walking, and we saw a sign for classes. We decided to give it a try, and we both really liked it. After three or four years, it became not only something we loved doing, but our social network too. I went from taking classes, to teaching classes and making pottery. When we realized that our families were getting sick of receiving pots for every Christmas and birthday, we began selling our pottery at some small local shows. You know, to people who didn't have to say they liked it because they were related to us. Tony and Renee Gebauer of TR Pottery DCACI: So, when did TR pottery come about? TG: I began to start thinking more seriously about clay. At the time, Renée and I were both elementary teachers, throwing pots in our spare time. We knew it was time for us to move on from Evanston, so we put feelers out there for teaching jobs elsewhere, but nothing was developing for us. A couple of things nudged us: I thought of going to work in someone else's studio, but people I respected in the clay world told me "Go and do it. You should be making your own work." And then we also called up an older friend of ours who had been an airline pilot, and had moved to Northern WI to pursue his craft of painting. He told us this: "There are a lot of people who are going to tell you that pursuing your art is a risk. From where I stand, it's more of a risk if you don't do it. You're always going to wonder what life would have been like." DCACI: Wow, that's inspiring. Do you still love your work? TG: More than ever. You just get better at it, and it becomes more fun. DCACI: Kind of like the Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers...you've put in your 10,000 hours? TG: Exactly, it's so true. To become really good at something, you have to put in the time. I've had quite a few people bring up the 10,000 hours thing to me, and it's funny. When I went back and counted how much time I've put into my craft, I've hit that mark. DCACI: Do you have a preferred form that you enjoy making? TG: No, I like it all. Actually, I love working in larger runs of a shape. I enjoy the repetition of the motion, the economy of it. There's a rhythm to the whole process now that's important to me. The longer I've done it, the more I'm aware of the overriding rhythm. To see the beautiful results of Tony and Renee's rhythm, stop by TR Pottery daily between 10-6. The gallery is open daily through October, and then Saturdays from November-February.