Bill and Bridget Hauser at Sunset Canyon Pottery work with their hands. He takes care of the shipping and packing while she oversees the production of the handmade pottery. Together they have taken over one of the most famous Austin pottery lines and moved to the Hill Country outside of Austin to start a new gallery that sells the creations of Texas artisans.
Bridget started working for Clarksville Pottery Studio in 1981 when the gallery was at its original location. The couple took over the production and wholesale portion of the studio 10 years later. Last November they had a wall-raising for their studio and gallery on US290 between Oak Hill and Dripping Springs.
Sunset Canyon Pottery is a Southwestern-style building nestled among the juniper and live oak trees on the hillside next to the highway. It is anything but typical -- from the method of construction to the activities going on inside, Sunset Canyon Pottery is very unique.
The building was constructed using hay bales covered with stucco for the walls. Bridget said that with the help of 65 or so volunteers they stacked the walls of the 1,400-square-foot building in a day. A group from New Mexico came out to help them during construction and to do workshops on building with straw bales, which are otherwise usually either plowed under or burned off by farmers.
The stucco walls are decorated with pieces of pottery. A porch roof protects the southern and eastern walls from the hot sun. "Each work space has its own window," Bridget said. "We use a lot of natural lighting."
Visiting the studio and gallery is kind of like visiting a country workshop, a museum, and a store all at once. The small gallery at the front of the building is packed full of the unusual and the beautiful. There are sculptures and kitchen utensils, wall pieces, and soap dishes. A picture window separates the gallery and the production room where artisans work.
"We have 35 artists that consign with us," Bridget said of the gallery. "There are lots of artists doing special things that aren't finding a commercial outlet." With the exception of some clay jugs, everything in the gallery is made in Texas.
The company employs 14 workers producing pottery under the Clarksville Pottery name. Bridget doesn't get to spend as much time at the potter's wheel as she would like, but she still keeps her hands in all phases of the work. "She spends about 20 hours a week at the wheel," Bill said. "And that's 20 hours of the 65 hours she works and then there is Saturday and Sunday. Bridget's interested in creating the pieces; beyond that it's work to her."
Bill can recognize vases that Bridget made 20 years ago, he said. For Bridget, there have been too many pieces to remember. Bridget began her career in pottery when she was eight years old in Indiana. Neighbors, who were university professors, traded her time watching their children for time in their pottery and weaving studio.
The love of creating and working with her hands that Bridget learned very early stayed with her. She graduated from Indiana University and the couple had two daughters born in Gary, Indiana. Bridget and Bill have done dozens of jobs including working in restaurants, hotels, and selling her pottery at street fairs. "Street fairs are a great way for beginning artists," Bridget said. "They meet the customer and get instant feedback."
Bridget feels as though she received her Masters of Fine Arts degree by working with Arnold Popenski, who still owns Clarksville Pottery Gallery. The Hausers look forward to eventually getting out of the "heavy lifting" of the wholesale business. "I really love the teaching part [of the business]," Bridget said. She would like to turn the workshop into a school and turn over the wholesale business to possibly one of her students to carry on the tradition.
Sunset Canyon Pottery is at 4002 E. US290, three miles east of Dripping Springs. The gallery is open 10am-6:30pm Monday through Saturday and noon-6pm on Sunday. For more information, call the gallery and studio at 894-0938.
Coming up this weekend...
"Hell Hath No Fury" Ladies State Chili Championship in Luckenbach was started by the late Hondo Crouch because Chilympiad (in San Marcos) wouldn't let women compete. Added to the day's lineup are a bean cookoff, ugly pickup truck parade, and evening dance with Gary P. Nunn, Oct. 4. 830/997-3224.
Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg brings 25 German bands and lots of food, Oct. 3-5. 940/997-4810.
Octoberfest in Winedale features artisans doing their craft, German sausage, barbecue, and continuous entertainment, Oct. 4-5. 409/278-3530.
Down By The Riverside Festival in Kerrville benefits the Riverside Nature Center at Louise Hays Park, Oct. 4. 830/257-4837
Seafair in Rockport welcomes chefs from all over for the gumbo cookoff, music, fishing, and special exhibits, Oct. 11-12. 800/826-6441.
Rose Festival in Tyler shows why the town is the "Rose Capital of Texas," Oct. 16-19. 903/597-3130.
The Humor of Patrick McManus presented by actor Tim Behrens will be at the Bastrop Opera House, Oct. 17. McManus will be at the performance to sign books. 512/321-6283.
A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie at the Ft.Worth Museum of Science and History is the first major museum exhibition devoted to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and includes a walk-through replica of the ship that sank off the Florida Keys, through Jan. 4. 817/732-1631.
Day Trips, Vol.1, a book of the first 100 columns, updated and expanded, is available for $6.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, 1712 E. Riverside, Box 156, Austin, TX 78741. 333rd in a Series.
Collect them all.