I have spent entire afternoons scouring pottery shops in far away places for just the right bowl to bring home from my travels. Likewise, art festivals.
Funny, the things we seek out in our travels, but overlook in our own backyard.
This fall marks 18 years since we landed here, time enough for things to grow a bit stale. One of the reasons I loved our early nomadic years of marriage was that everything was new, an adventure waiting to happen, a world of possibilities beyond every door. I miss that. And yet while the familiar may grow a bit tired, there’s something to be said for old favorites, for the history that binds us. Likewise, for rediscoveries — those places you’ve known for years, but are guilty of neglecting.
That’s where we found ourselves last week as we headed out for the afternoon. No plans, just time out and about, where, admittedly, it seemed we’d already explored all that was there.
I probably pass the sign on Highway 101 once a week, seeing it, I guess, but not really. But on this day, the sign spoke to me anew: Mossy Creek Pottery.
It had been forever since we stopped in. It wasn’t that I intentionally ignored it; it just kind of fell off my radar. And truly, had I been on the road traveling and spotted it, Mossy Creek would have been my first stop.
Freshly intrigued, we turned east on Immonen Road, then drove a half mile on the lush country road, arriving in the shaded parking lot of the old red and shingled cottage. Like any old friend, I recognized it instantly. The towering ancient cedar tree anchoring one corner, the pottery bowls and flowers leading to the front porch, where seconds beckoned at discount prices.
I stepped inside, and found all manner of color and shape, of vases and bowls, mugs and jugs, growlers and teapots, sculpted birds, whimsical faces, even art inspired by Sasquatch.
“Welcome,” the woman at the counter said. “Come in, look around. This summer is our 45th season.”
Forty-five years! That’s a long time for a little cottage a half mile down a country road with only a simple sign for advertising. My curiosity lead me to Melanie Richardson, owner of the shop.
Melanie went to work at Mossy Creek in 2010, then bought it a few years later. That makes her the fourth owner. It was originally opened in 1973 by Bob and Julie Richardson (no relation), then passed onto two other owners before Melanie took it on. The shop is housed in a cottage built nearly 100 years ago, originally part of a farm and then housing for a groundskeeper for the Salishan resort.
Prior to the Richardsons’ ownership, Salishan Lodge owned the land on which Mossy Creek and the neighboring Alder House Glass now stand, Melanie told me. Betty Gray, the wife of Salishan developer John Gray, wanted to have local artists and artisans become a part of the lodge experience for its guests and Salishan homeowners.
“They parceled off the land and asked Buzz Williams to open a glass studio and then enlisted Bob Richardson to create pottery on this site,” she said. “ Mrs. Gray envisioned a trail for guests to amble down from the lodge, and though that trail never materialized, her vision for artists in the area endures.”
Forty artists from the Pacific Northwest show their work at Mossy Creek.
“We still have the original artists showing their work here,” Melanie said. “We’ve tried not to change things, but put our stamp on it. Our artists are from Oregon and Washington, as far north as Bellingham, as far east as the Baker City/Haines area, as far south as Jacksonville. I try to find someone to represent all different types of creating — wheel throwing or slab building, all the different decorating techniques, ways of carving pieces. We really keep an eye on having different styles represented.”
The Pacific Northwest connection is important because that was the original intent of the shop and she intends to honor that, Melanie said. It’s also what appeals to visitors.
“They want to take home a memento of their time in the Northwest and they find it more meaningful if it is something that was actually created here.”
Which is, of course, why we travel — and, also, why we live here.
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.