DELLS BUCKET LIST #17- Going behind-the-scenes of PAINT IT! POTTERY SHOP

Getting my hands dirty is usually something I find rather unpleasant, but when recently given the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of the Paint It! Pottery Shop, I found getting messy while transforming a spinning lump of clay can actually be quite fun.

Located on the downtown strip, the create-your-own studio provides the chance for Dells residents and visitors of all ages to make one-of-a-kind gifts and keepsakes. Open year-round, owners Randy and Nicole Thompson started the shop in 2003, and for the past nine years have given those of all artistic abilities the chance to create unique works of art.

When I first went to the Paint It! Pottery Shop for my latest Dells Bucket List adventure, I didn’t really know what to expect. The only other time I’ve had the opportunity to try sculpting was in high school, so I assumed the studio would be the same sterile, art room type environment. This definitely wasn’t the case.

Walking through the doors, I was first hit with a pleasant smelling fragrance and immediately realized that the large space has a much cozier ambiance than what I was expecting. Looking around, I found that the walls are filled with seasonally decorated shelves, artwork, and cabinets displaying a huge assortment of pottery.

Being warmly greeted by manager Debra Wolterstorff, who has been working with ceramic since she was twelve, I was given a tour where she told me that the shop carries over four hundred different styles of pottery from all over the world. Priced from $2 to $50, any piece can be custom painted and personalized with more than seventy solid, speckled, and dimensional colors.

After each piece is decorated, it is then coated with a clear, protective glaze and fired in one of three kilns, at temperatures of up to 1800 degrees. Debra told me: “For the most part, every one of our customers, when they come back to pick up the piece, is just amazed at how beautiful it turns out. Because the glaze is kind of flat and dull when they first get done painting it – it’s the firing of it that makes the colors pop.”

Anxious to attempt to transform mud into my very own masterpiece, I then met with instructor Josh Haney, who walked me through the ins and outs of pottery wheel throwing. Josh learned his skills while attending Baraboo High School, and has been helping teach others part-time at the studio for the past three years.

When I asked Josh what he likes best about teaching at the studio, he told me: “Just seeing people enjoy it, seeing how much fun they have throwing on the wheel. At first there like, oh it looks so hard, but then when they start doing it, they end up having a lot more fun then they think.”

I would definitely agree with that statement, because I found working the clay on the spinning wheel very enjoyable. I’ll admit, there certainly was a bit of a learning curve, but Josh patiently explained the process from start to finish. He even lent a hand when I inevitably made a few wrong moves. While my piece didn’t end up the grand masterwork I envisioned it would, it still turned out to be pretty cool looking when all was said and done.

Before leaving the studio, I had to ask the one burning question that came to mind while sculpting the clay: Has there ever been requests by customers wanting to reenact Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore’s famous pottery wheel scene from the movie Ghost?

“All the time!” Debra laughingly told me. “We get calls from ladies – can we like, um, can we like throw together on the wheel? There not saying Ghost, but definitely asking Ghost, and I’m like oh my goodness. I’m trying to explain to them that you really can’t do that with two people, because you’ll basically wreck it!”

While I imagine that this most likely would be true, crossing that scenario off my personal Bucket List is still something I might have to attempt someday . . .

Whether you're an accomplished artist or a studio novice, The Paint It! Pottery Shop is an ever-changing studio to relax and unwind while creating unique gifts and keepsakes. Located at 517 Broadway, the shop offers a variety of drinks, snacks, grommet coffees, free WI-FI, and is the perfect location to host a party or get-together.

For more information visit: , to read the full interviews with Debra, Josh, and Randy, visit:, to see more pics of the shop & making pottery is visit the Dells Bucket List Facebook page.