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It's mid-August and the county is jumping with activity. High season for family vacationers means there's lots of excitement, but at times it's nice to get away from the busy streets of our towns and drive down a beautiful country road. What better excuse to head off the beaten track than to visit one of my favorite Door County galleries, Off the Wheel Pottery. I recently had a chance to sit down with Renee Schwaller, resident potter and owner of Off the Wheel and chat with her as I watched her work on a clay vessel she was preparing to fire. Renee Schwaller and her work Door County Insider: There are so many wonderful potters in Door County. How did you get started with pottery? Renee Schwaller: My parents had a cottage in Door County. I spent summers here in college and took a dance class with Ginka Cohn, whose husband was Abe Cohn. Abe started the pottery community in Door County at The Potter's Wheel, and I worked there for two summers. I originally had a communications degree, and I had always done art, like pastels and sketching. Working at the Potters Wheel inspired me to go back and study pottery. I love it because I can create the form, and then the form is also like a type of canvas. It's the perfect medium for me. Renee at work DCI: How long have you had your gallery? RS: (Thinks for a minute) Since 1998. Wow! That's 15 years! DCI: How would you describe your style? RS: My work is definitely inspired by nature. It has changed over time, in a very subtle way. It has evolved because of my own life experiences. DCI: Your gallery is a few miles down a country road, and it's set in a renovated granary and barn. What do you like about being in this setting, "off the beaten track"? RS: Being here gives me time to make my work and to run my business. It's wonderful because everyone who comes here seeks me out. They're here because they have a true interest in pottery and in my work, and I really have time to talk with the people who come. Customers come back year after year, so I've been able to form relationships with them over time. And of course, I love looking out my window at the fields and flowers around me. It's peaceful. The charming, rustic studio grounds DCI: What's it like being part of the Door County arts community? RS: We all love each other and support each other. It's such a close knit community - even if we don't see each other much in the summer because we're all so busy. We potters have formed a group called the Potters Guild, we send people to each others' studios and promote each other. Off the Wheel Pottery is open 10-4:30, Monday through Saturday, and is located at 4234 County Road E, just a mile or so off Highway 42 in Egg Harbor. Don't miss these other top Door County galleries: Edgewood Orchard Galleries, The Hardy Gallery, and the Miller Art Museum.
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