Woodfired Pottery & Gifts
About Dunn County Pottery
Traditional wood-fired pottery in an idyllic country setting. Our ethic is based in care for the environment and providing affordable, local, fair-trade products.
Wisconsin Pottery & Gift Shop
“Living here, in a small rural community with the beauty and wildness of the river bottoms at our back door, reminds us to take a deep breath and let go. We offer this space in the hope that it will allow people to slow down and spend time together. The most important things in life are friends, family, and community.”
– John Thomas & Kathy Ruggles, owners
All the pots are handcrafted and inspired by the human form and the natural landscape of rural Wisconsin.
Dunn County Pottery, is a pottery and gift shop located in beautiful Downsville, Wisconsin. The property overlooks the Red Cedar River Valley, oxbow ponds and 65 acres of woodland. The native prairie is under restoration and has walking trails. Close to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dunn County Pottery is the perfect destination for a family outing or a visit for easy local gift shopping.
Potter John Thomas founded the Dunn County Pottery in 1973. John apprenticed as a potter on the island of Awajishima, just south of Kobe, in central Japan between August 1971 and September 1972. He learned traditional production pottery, dug local clay from the earth, and learned to mix glazes by hand.
Local Pottery & Gifts
In 1985, John moved his pottery and showroom to The Creamery Restaurant & Inn, a joint venture by the Thomas family, which included a fine dining restaurant, pottery, gift shop, and inn rooms in the renovated historic creamery building.
In 2000, the pottery moved next door to The Creamery building. The historic Downsville Schoolhouse was moved to the Dunn County Pottery in 2008. The schoolhouse became a pottery showroom and event center. In 2020, John and Kathy moved their residence to the historic schoolhouse. John continues to make pottery in his workshop and self-service pottery sales are available every day of the week in the pottery showroom.
Wood Fired Pottery
John Thomas hand throws most of the pottery and also uses techniques like drape molding and stamping. Many of the glazes are custom mixed and some of the clay bodies and glazes are made from local clays dug from the surrounding hillsides. John fires many pots in gas and electric kilns throughout the year.
His favorite pots are wood-fired in a three-chamber noborigama kiln, or climbing kiln, that was built by hand and is made of brick. This large kiln is generally fired once a year just before the pottery hosts an open house. One small chamber in the kiln is reserved for salt firing, which increases the intensity of the colors created by the flames. The kiln is often fired with wood John sources from the restoration of the adjacent woodlands.
Sustainability and care for the environment are a primary focus of owners John Thomas and Kathy Ruggles. Participants in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), they received an award for practicing exemplary conservation and having the highest-ranked forestland enrolled in CSP in 2012. The Simply Dunn facility is powered by a 10.8 kilowatt 48-panel fixed solar array, which is connected to the grid, and provides all the power needed for Kathy and John’s home and business. The array was installed by the local company Next Step Energy. Gift shop items include local and fair trade gifts, arts, and crafts by local artisans.
Thin Ice: Owners Have High Hopes for a New Kind of Creamery in Downsville
Leader Telegram | September 10, 2016
Downsville Resident Hooked on Pottery
Leader Telegram | December 13, 2014
Dunn County Pottery
Leader Telegram | December 13, 2014
Chippewa Valley Herald | August 30, 2013
Prairie Days come to Downsville
Downsville-Area Couple Awarded for Their Conservation Efforts
Leader Telegram | February 28, 2013
What Goes Around: New Owners Seek Interested Part(ies) to Give Landmark Inn a Second Chance
Chippewa Valley Herald | June 25, 2011