The state of Wisconsin has many hidden treasures. You can learn about go-to attractions, events and destinations by watching Discover Wisconsin – the nation’s longest running tourism television program shown in 8 states – or you can simply read their blog, The Bobber. The Bobber recently highlighted 5 ‘birding’ hot spots in Wisconsin – I want to tell you about the 6th spot.
Horicon Marsh is a national refuge and state wildlife area located within an hour drive of Neenah, Madison and Milwaukee. It’s the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States – and at this time of year, it is home to hundreds of sandhill cranes and more than two hundred thousand Canada Geese and various species of ducks as they pass through the area to migrate south.
In the fall, beginning at sunrise, watching the cranes and geese rise into the morning air is simply one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles on Earth. If you miss sunrise, don’t worry. The birds lift back to the sky and return to the marsh in the early evening. Their voice can be heard for miles – it is magnificent to watch.
No need to make an appointment for this spectacular show. If you want to visit the Education Center, it’s open between 10:00-4:00, 7 days/week. And don’t forget to visit the gift shop. It’s there you’ll find Sunset Hill Stoneware pieces – the perfect way to remind you of home and wildlife.
Keeping Watch. Pat
In recognition of Breast Cancer awareness month, we have added the awareness ribbon to our library of stocked artworks. To show your support for the cause, you can combine the ribbon with our new Pink Passion glaze to create your own stoneware – or you can purchase in stock pieces crafted by SHS master potters that are ready to ship.
To show our support for the cause, we’ll donate $3.00 to the Breast Center at Theda Clark Medical Center Foundation for each Pink Passion mug purchased in October that features the international awareness ribbon symbol.
The Theda Clark Medical Center Foundation is a non-profit corporation that serves as the philanthropic arm of Theda Clark Medical Center. Located in Neenah, the ThedaCare hospital network was the first health care system in Wisconsin to be selected as a Mayo Clinic Care Network member. This collaboration enables ThedaCare physicians to have access to the latest Mayo Clinic expertise in disease management, clinical care guidelines, treatment recommendations and educational materials.
We are so fortunate to have this resource in our hometown! I hope you join my Dad, myself and the entire Sunset Hill Stoneware team in supporting early detection and the cause during October.
Until next time. Tom
If you’re lucky to be old enough – you’ll remember a product from the 1950’s called Dippity-do. It was a translucent pink color hair gel product made by The Gillett Company. As a kid it was just fun to dip your fingers into the gel and play with the stuff – watch it in action!
Ok, we’re not making hair gel here – but I can tell you there are members of our team singing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, My, oh my what a wonderful day!
What deserves such nostalgic fun? Well, in the pottery world creating a new glaze color takes a lot of chemistry knowledge, patience and sometimes a bit of scientific luck. Glaze colors are affected by the clay, slips and underglazes – but mostly by the metallic oxides within the fabric of the glaze itself. Varying circumstances give these colorants very different results. Variables can include the composition of the glaze, the temperature used when the glaze is fired, the placement of the product within the kiln and the kiln’s atmosphere during firing and cooling.
Knowing what can go wrong helps you understand why we’re fired up. Our Ironman production manager and his team of rock star glaze technicians have created a PINK glaze.
It. Is. Stunning. And it’s for you!
Oh, yes, we’re singing in the firehouse tonight. Pat
In our line of business, we get to work with all types of customers – from big brands, to smaller start-up companies like Valley Athletics. This family-run company is a bit like Sunset Hill Stoneware – they built an amazing facility to provide the best service possible. In their case, that meant designing an indoor facility for outdoor sports including tennis, soccer, tackle football, lacrosse, rugby, baseball etc.
You may think that not so unusual but their indoor state-of-the-art field turf allows players to touch lines, wear cleats, play with age appropriate goals and experience fewer injuries – all here in Midwest Wisconsin, all year long. They provide training, equipment, locker rooms – even child care.
When they launched their business, they asked SHS to customize a mug for their new facility – in a special color, just for them. If you read our blogs, you know that glaze colors are a mix of minerals, science – and sometimes a bit of luck.
We’re pleased to be part of their growth strategy. Congratulations to Valley Athletics and their team of players! We hope they’re in the game for a long time.
Until next time. Tom
Join us online as we celebrate the new look of our website! With your feedback, we’ve enhanced and improved your online shopping experience at www.shstoneware.com. Our improved site simply makes shopping for handcrafted stoneware more fun!
For a limited time, save 30% when you customize or purchase ready-made pieces online!
- Shop faster with our new mega menu and footer navigation
- Receive discounted pricing when customizing pieces and purchasing two or more of the same style and glaze
- Wholesale customers can upload their logo directly on our website – in turn, our design team will transform that image into a high definition, 3-dimensional clay medallion on a virtual mock-up
Come celebrate with us! But hurry! Offer expires midnight on September 2, 2013. Use discount code BLOG2013 during checkout!
We put fun into shopping!
Until next time. Tom
One year ago this month, Sunset Hill Stoneware relocated to a new manufacturing facility. This wasn’t just a new relocation for us. We turned the industry upside down and have become America's greenest, cleanest production pottery facility – placing the health and safety of our employees first and foremost. Of course, we care about out the quality and delivery of our finished stoneware pieces – but all of that would be for naught, if we didn’t take care of our employees’ health and safety too.
If you’ve seen or been in other pottery environments, you may get the sense of darkness, extreme dust, inadequate ventilation, dirt and a mix of heat and humidity that can have a negative, long term effect on an employees’ health.
Our goal was to create a facility that was green – making the best use of our natural resources. And to design a facility that was a clean environment with adequate fresh air, continuous ventilation, ergonomic workplace safety, and at the end, we even topped it off with air conditioning.
We enjoy your ongoing testimonials and love for our Wisconsin-made SHS product. We also hope you appreciate that beyond the beauty of our pieces, is the underlying confidence that we have made great effort to ensure our employees are safe, healthy and treated fairly.
My Dad and I are proud to own Sunset Hill Stoneware and treasure our employees. America’s clean and green production pottery facility was built for them. So our artisans could do what they love and make a good living at it.
Proud to be making a difference in the art industry.
Until next time. Tom
It’s been said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ That is true, but we all know when it comes to art, beauty can be very subjective. A piece that is viewed as priceless to one person can make another tilt their head and say, ‘I don’t get it.’
That perception can be a challenge in our business. Everything we do is by hand. Throwing on the wheel, handle/medallion application, bottom stamping – including hand dipping our pieces when in bisque form.
Now trouble can start during any stage of the pottery making process. For instance, when the greenware is fired for the first time, components of the clay body (proprietary blend of clay, minerals, sand and grog) will undergo chemical changes that will transform the color of the clay. We understand how our clay body recipe will react; now our artsy glazes – that’s a different story.
Due to their natural components, every glaze is formulated differently – and will react differently. Some glazes are thinner than others; meaning they will ‘run’ further on a piece vs. a thicker glaze. This isn’t too much of a concern unless you are ordering a two-tone color. It is here that you will experience different drip lines. Some glazes will ‘run’ more – like our Royal Green and Seaspray colors pictured above that drip behind the medallion, where thicker glazes will most likely rest on top of the medallion similar to our Glacier Frost and Ivy Mist colors shown below. Different minerals, temperatures, even kiln placement has an impact on a final piece. It is virtually impossible to match the style and characteristics of different formulated glazes and get them to react the same way.
That’s why our stoneware is called art. Each finished piece is very similar yet different, due to the handcrafted quality and natural earth components. It’s the chemistry of the potter, clay and glaze interacting together that creates one-of-a-kind timeless pieces designed for daily use.
Watch us in action. Pat
Discover Wisconsin is the nation's longest running tourism television program. The weekly program walks viewers through the breathtaking natural beauty of Wisconsin and outdoor activities for all seasons. While the show carefully highlights Wisconsin’s many great vacation treasures, it also showcases the arts, crafts, foods and collectables that have made Wisconsin internationally recognized for top quality craftsmanship.
And that’s how Sunset Hill Stoneware was discovered. Discover Wisconsin’s Executive Producer Mark Rose received a Sunset Hill Stoneware mug from a friend and realized it was handcrafted in Wisconsin – right in Neenah. The TV crew found in between their stories of lighthouses, shorelines, waterfalls, caves and world class fishing was a team of creative artisans who crafted timeless pottery the old fashion way – by hand, on pottery wheels. Even more, SHS had engineered and invested in our processes to ensure employee safety, (even the continuous flow of fresh, clean circulating air) and we tightened up our production processes so we could hand produce mass quantities of customer-branded stoneware.
Our story inspired Discover Wisconsin to create a Master Craftsman designation that would honor Wisconsin’s skilled artisans. And that’s how Sunset Hill Stoneware became a first-time recipient of the prestigious designation.
We’re honored to receive the title. And we’re honored to work for the ‘best of the best’ customers and shop owners across this country. They’re the reason why we keep throwing. It’s heartwarming to travel this country and find an attractive, functional Sunset Hill Stoneware mug sitting on a shelf acting as a lifelong billboard of the represented brand. Our mugs are like owning a little piece of Americana. And it’s satisfying to read what our customer’s say about our product line and service.
Thank you for supporting our hand formed products. Take time to look for our products as you vacation and travel this summer; we hope you take a bit of us back home with you. Pat
Our team loves art. And we have an appreciation for others who have embraced the craftsmanship of the past and revitalized it for modern day purposes. One such craft is wood type and letterpress printing.
You may recall the classic western ‘Wanted’ poster from year’s past, but know that wood type was used broadly to sell newspapers, land, horses – even create circus posters. This art hasn’t been lost – thanks to Wisconsin businesses like the rauhaus design+letterpress and Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.
rauhaus is owned by Kevin Rau. He’s a professor, a singer and guitarist for a local rock n’ roll trio, loves ol’ cars, and happens to be a designer who owns a 1946 Chandler & Price ‘clamshell’ press. There’s a certain hand-felt beauty in holding a finished piece. Even more exhilarating is seeing the manual turn of an antique press producing modern day pieces – now popular for business cards, stationary, events and specially inscribed wedding invitations.
The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, founded in 1999, is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. The Hamilton collection maintains 1.5 million pieces of wood type, more than 1,000 styles and pattern sizes and an amazing array of advertising cuts. In its heyday, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company was the largest wood type producer in the country. Today the working museum hosts thousands of visitors who come to learn and understand the beauty of this art.
Both of these businesses have taken the simple application of the American alphabet and invigorated this past art with extraordinary enthusiasm so others can learn and enjoy. Their dedication is priceless.
Keeping watch. Pat
The historic city of Saratoga Springs NY started out as a quiet little settlement with beautiful scenery and magnificent natural springs. As more and more people learned of its healing mineral springs, the area quickly grew into a luxury resort city.
High-society from all over the world made a point to visit the famed "Spa City" and experience the springs for themselves. Today, Spa City is still popular for its rich mineral baths and fabulous culture, but the Saratoga Race Course steals the show every summer with its live Thoroughbred horse racing.
Sports Illustrated once named the Saratoga Race Course as one of the top 10 sports venues of the 20th century, right up there with Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and others. This year the Saratoga race course is celebrating 150 years of racing with a five-month-long celebration that will last several months and include a wide range of events and activities.
The interconnected events of Saratoga Race Course and the City of Saratoga Springs tell a compelling story about wins, losses and the horses and people that were a part of it. Sunset Hill Stoneware is pleased to work with Impressions of Saratoga and be part of their 150-year celebration. Congratulations on an American success!
Keeping Watch. Pat