BY AMANDA ANDERSON MATTHEWS
Sweet Owen Contributor
In 2004, Ellie Petzinger—then an aquatic biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife—attended an adult pottery class at Frankfort’s Thornhill Education Center. Her purpose was simple enough; she needed flowerpots for her sprawling collection of house plants. The result, however, would change her life trajectory and transform her into a well-known artist across northern and central Kentucky.
In addition to flowerpots, Petzinger also wanted tableware. It seemed logical to her to learn to make them. Upon taking the class, she became captivated by both the artistry and the artists themselves.
“I really loved the community and the culture that I had found in the ceramics world,” Petzinger said. “Working with clay meant endless possibilities because you can take it in any direction.”
Petzinger would resign from Fish and Wildlife in 2011 to have her first child, and in doing so, took on pottery in earnest, creating a pottery studio at her home. Before the birth of her children, in lessons and in the studio, she was accompanied by her constant companion, a German Shepherd named Nya. It was obvious to Petzinger’s mentor, Les Greeman, what she should call her pottery business: Dog Hair. With dog hair in the glaze and in the pots, it was the natural choice since each piece came with its own contribution from Nya.
A style all her own
To know Petzinger is to realize she marches to her own beat. She exudes positivity, and it’s hard not to feel welcome in her presence. Make your way from her home to her studio, and you’ll spot her bright turquoise Volkswagen Beetle. Her sprawling gardens. Her mismatched bone earrings. She is uniquely Ellie Petzinger, and so is her work.
Working with locally-sourced clay whenever possible, Petzinger’s belief that the clay is just as stunning as the glazes she uses often leads her to leave areas of the raw clay body exposed—this might be through careful glazing or a strategically placed handprint.
Of her many creations, which include cookware like dutch ovens and casserole dishes, as well as vases, sculptures, baskets, and home décor, Petzinger is fondest of her banded vessels, a style of pot she builds one piece of clay at a time. Each pot takes on a unique style, slightly different from the last, giving them all character and personality.
“My most popular items are the cookware,” Petzinger said. “. . . I think my mugs are popular because of the handles. They are hand-pulled and have my thumbprint at the top. People really like that little detail.”
Over the years, Petzinger has worked with different people to learn other techniques and styles to create something that is truly her own. She has practiced many forms of pottery, including soda-fired, raku, and Anagama wood-fired. When creating sculptures, she forages her surroundings to add details to the pieces, like driftwood, bones, metal, and plants, to keep her art natural and genuinely local.
Art and Owen County
“I think the best part of having my studio (in Owen County) is that I’m always being inspired by nature, and I have great support from my family and friends,” Petzinger said.
One of the ways she integrates Owen County into her pottery is through nature. Unsurprisingly, she uses local flora and fauna in her work. A quick walk around her property can yield endless inspiration and tools to incorporate into her designs.
“Creating pieces of art with materials mined from the earth brings me a lot of inner joy and can be meditative at times,” Petzinger said as she stamped poppy stems from her garden onto honey pots. “It’s also my way of life. It’s how I keep the lights on and my kids fed.”
Looking around her studio, one can see traces of her tools: lace and doilies hanging across the window by clothes pins. Vases full of dried stems for stamping, twigs, bones. Rolling pins and empty bottles. And most importantly, the question, “What if?” hanging in the air. Every artist’s most important tool—possibility.
“My hope for art and Owen County is that the art community continues growing and thriving,” Petzinger added.
It is this hope that keeps her moving forward.
She dedicated her time this past year as an artist in residence at Owen County High School, teaching students to use the potters wheel. She believes that if we continue supporting small businesses and local art, we can build our local artists.
“I have learned about myself through my art; like myself, my art is forever changing and evolving.”
Interested in supporting Dog Hair Pottery? You can find Petzinger’s work at:
> Frankfort’s Completely Kentucky
> Folksiders in Rabbit Hash
> Rabbit Hash Artworks in Rabbit Hash
> Glencoe General Store in Glencoe, Kentucky
> The Collective in Cincinnati, Ohio
> The Key West Collective in Key West, Florida
You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook and contact her regarding the pottery she posts online. She can be found @doghairpottery on Instagram, Dog Hair Pottery Studio on Facebook, or http://doghairpotterystudio.weebly.com.