As we celebrate our traditions, our independence and freedom in America on July 4th, may we also celebrate our independence and freedom we hold to be our own proprietors of businesses both large and small. To own. To build. To make a lasting impact on our community for the services we provide. To grow a business that sustains, makes a difference and lasts. Owning one’s own business is not for the faint of heart.
Then, we all shared the unreal experience of a global pandemic, where we learned that a business can just vanish without a trace in an instant. Our favorite childhood restaurant ... Gone. Our favorite retail-therapy boutique … Gone. Our favorite coffee chain’s location by our house we sluggishly arrived at daily … Gone. Our favorite Bed and Breakfast retreat … Gone. Our sentimental mom-and-pop bakery we went to our entire lives… Gone. Surviving ‘Rona was one thing, but having a business survive decades in a changing world and economy are another. What a triumph it is to do either, but especially both.
Here at Mossy Creek Pottery, we did both. We have arrived upon our milestone 50th Anniversary date. On June 16th, 1973, we first opened our endearingly rickety, farmhouse doors with only founder/owner Bob Richardson’s pottery for sale on a mere two bookshelves. He and his wife, Julia, bought this ethereal farmhouse (which had just been someone’s home prior) nestled next to Siletz Bay Wildlife Refuge, tucked into the trees off the highway. Because of Mossy Creek Pottery’s foundation that the Richardsons built, we have remained in this same enchanting slice of the world for an inspiring and rewarding 50 years in this now 100-year-old homestead.
Five decades later, we now host over 55 talented Pacific Northwest potter’s work. We stay open all winter and are open 7-days-a-week throughout the year. There have been four successive caregiver couples of Mossy Creek Pottery since the beginning, starting with our founding Richardson couple and arriving here, 50 years later, with current caretakers, another Richardson couple, Melanie and Don. No relation nor could it have been planned this way...just another thread that seems to magically preserve and connect this portal to the past inside a pottery oasis that some travel from all over to experience.
Synchronicities and parallels seem to happen here at Mossy Creek often. Julia Richardson, in the diary she kept of Mossy Creek’s early years from 1973-1977, wrote:
June 29, 1975
Bob was commenting today to a customer how we don’t have walk up traffic – when a backpacker walked in! "Here’s your walk-in traffic!" said the customer. Turned out to be a potter from Montana named Bob Richards who works with cone 6 glazes. He was a very nice person, and Bob gave him a cone 6 glaze formula on one of our cards to take along.
July 26, 1977
We’ve been meeting so many interesting people. Today’s people were in from Rhode Island to San Francisco. The ones from Rhode Island bought pottery for their daughter who’s marrying a Bob Richardson!
Nothing’s changed. We still experience incredible phenomenon here, frequently.
Over the years, Mossy Creek has needed little advertising, just word-of-mouth and a highway sign, which in the early years was just a few pieces of pottery on the side of the highway with an arrow pointing the way. Julia wrote on May 25, 1975, "we haven’t even advertised the fact that we are open yet” after having been opened nearly two years already. Around that time, she also recorded that even without advertising Mossy Creek averaged around 50 customers a day, at times. On Labor Day, September 5, 1977, she wrote: “yesterday many people donned rain-gear and walked down Immonen Road. We had probably about 200 people in the shop yesterday."
Julia also wrote about all the international customers who, even back in the 1970s, found their way to Mossy Creek for the pottery. She wrote:
July 22, 1977
Earlier, we sold some pottery to a fellow from Novia Scotia. Today we sold some to be given as gifts to people in Germany purchased by tourists from Germany.
On another occasion on November 4, 1973, she wrote about a customer who came in from Scotland. After their interaction, Julia conveyed in her diary that “evidently, our Oregon Coast very much resembles Scotland according to her.” In 1977, she also documented visitors from Japan and England who had found their way to our porch steps. On August 6, 1976, Julia wrote about a connection with a foreign exchange student from Bogota, Colombia who bought a bowl to take back with her. A couple weeks later, on August 22, she described how “two carloads of people from Switzerland visited our shop today.”
Domestic wanderers have also found their way to us since the beginning. During their time at Mossy Creek until 1985, Julia and Bob made a great team. She managed the business and the shop as Bob focused on his art, making much of his pottery in our on-site studio, and taught pottery for 17 years at the now Western Oregon State University in Monmouth. Julia was diligent and detailed with customer surveys and asking questions to better help the business and connect with people. In her diary, she documented her findings. On two such occasions, she wrote:
July 31, 1977
There are lots of people at the Coast. We’ve had customers from all over – New York, Connecticut, North Dakota, Texas, etc. in addition to all the western states and British Columbia and Alberta.
June 29, 1975
Washington people tend to be excellent customers; around one-third of our sales so far seem to go to them. They almost always buy.
We love the PNW support that continues to live on. A half a century later, we have domestic travelers from Florida, Idaho, Ohio, Utah, Arizona, California, Montana, Maryland, Nevada, Georgia, Illinois, Colorado and Michigan. And that was just this last week. We also continue to have many international wanderers visit us as well.
At one time, we all first arrived at Mossy Creek, whether by vehicle or foot (which doesn’t happen often, but we know the minute we say, like Bob, that someone will arrive!), we can’t help but be enchanted by it all and are excited to tell others about it. We hear from many of you daily as you leave that you are already planning your next visit us. Our customers, especially our returning ones, are a huge reason we are still here 50 years later. We truly have the best customers!
Therefore, we must ask, what is it that brings YOU to and BACK to Mossy Creek Pottery?? Many will say it’s simply The Mossy Creek Charm that has beckoned us all to escape the well-worn path into another world, even a different era, through a winding portal disguised in a canopy of old growth trees… into our surrounding gardens of hidden statues and half buried pottery treasures, ancient Western Cedar trees filled with the wisdom of the ages watching over us, our refreshing little self-named “mossy creek” that runs alongside us, woods filled with fairly-tale Snow-White wonder and critters, and an inviting, old house at the center of it all, full of new clay treasures. This intoxication lures us to leave with our own signature and unique pieces of this earth formed into functional and captivating art that speaks to us.
Julia described the charm of this land in her diary frequently. On June 14, 1975, she wrote, "This morning as I was putting our daughter Jessica down a little after 6:00am I startled a deer in our driveway."
Other times, she documented:
Sunday, July 7, 1974
While I was cutting flowers, I heard wing-flapping but assumed it was the crows. Then I heard some musical sounds unlike any we’re used to hearing since they sounded like a large bird was making them. I looked for the source and was amazed to see a pair of bald eagles in the tall tree across the road. I went and got Bob from the studio, and we watched them together until they flew away. It was beautiful.
May 27, 1975
This morning we watched the doe and her last year’s fawn for about half an hour. They seemed to especially like eating the “buttercup” (cinquefoil) leaves – along with a few of the flowers themselves. Our “song sparrows” have their nest in the shore pine by the gate. The baby birds are tiny fluffs of gray, lying down at the bottom of the little nest; can’t tell how many there are…the shop really looks good.
Ultimately, it is because of Bob and Julia Richardson that we are here in this wonder-filled place 50 years later. We have Julia’s words in her diary as a preserve of our history and the charm of Mossy Creek. In recent years, before she passed last December 2022, Julia shared with us her thoughts about Mossy Creek in an email and why it has withstood the test of time and a pandemic. She wrote:
Mossy Creek started in a downturn back in 1973 when we had to weather the gas crisis with people only able to obtain gas on alternate days and with restricted travel. So far, Mossy Creek has weathered every crisis and downturn – it’s been lean at times, but it has popped up again like a buoy in a rough ocean … I loved working in the shop/gallery. It was a wonderful – but hardworking - time.
As we contemplate our existence with great nostalgia, we must ask, why have WE been here for a glorious 50 years? We now believe that it is because nothing but the proprietors and the pottery have changed here since the beginning. Many come back because of the memories and to experience the same scenery with great feelings, once again, in a timeless place. Change is not always good. And when hard times like a pandemic hit us, we do always seem to bounce back to our center on the foundation built from the hard work of the former Richardsons, carried on by the current ones. Much of Julia’s writing parallels our experiences here today like no time has passed. And we are grateful to her for capturing those moments for us to read and celebrate all these years later. Thanks for your written testimony, Julia, and continuing to watch over us.
Year after year, we see you all for your birthdays, anniversaries, sister trips, holiday shopping and family vacations. We thrive on celebrating your milestones with you. We invite you all for a visit this year to celebrate with us this anniversary. A way we like to celebrate with you is re-living cherished memories through your personal stories you share with us of generations, traditions, favorite pottery pieces and magical moments that bond us through time. We love to welcome you home again when we see you coming down our cobblestone path. Thank you for all for helping us reach and celebrate this feat of fifty years!
In honor of Julia, her memory and her diary, we have started a 50th Anniversary Diary/Guestbook in the shop that will be there for the remainder of this year. We invite you to tell us not only your name and where you are from, but also write any stories you want to document, like Julia, from your favorite visits with us over the years. What is it that brings you to and back to Mossy Creek Pottery? What do you love about this place? We value and appreciate any of your memories, thoughts, and feelings you want to share. As Julia has showed us, your written words do matter. Your stories and experiences matter. Your words will live on…
As we celebrate the 4th of July, Julie from 1976 also shares her words of wisdom with
July 8, 1976
We had a good Bicentennial weekend which really encouraged us… We heard the Taft fireworks on the Fourth; lots of cars watched them from the gravel pit at the top of the hill. Too much “crazy driving” was going on for us to venture out.
Once again, nothing has changed. Be safe out there, everyone!!! Happy Independence Day, especially to anyone who independently owns their own business and has weathered the storms. We applaud and stand with you. We are survivors and, like Julia said, buoys in the tossing and ever-changing seas of time.
As we continue our 50th Anniversary all-year celebration, Bob’s work that spans the decades continues to be an additional 20% off to pay tribute to our first Potter and show gratitude to our amazing Founders. Currently, Bob doesn’t make much of his beloved pottery anymore but is pleased and overjoyed every time you take home his work, a piece of Mossy Creek history, because he tells us. We also thank every person from around the world who we have welcomed into our heart and home and have been a part of Mossy Creek’s story, from one Richardson couple to another and all the beautiful years in between… from our clay hearts to yours!
Written by Kelly Clark for Mossy Creek Pottery