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Handmade pottery can last a lifetime and be a family treasure if proper care is taken

So, you just got a complete set of dishes, glasses, a pitcher and even a vase for the table when you unwrapped your biggest Christmas gift.

Your only question? It’s all handmade pottery and you wonder just how sturdy it will be for everyday use.


But Mark Goertzen, the owner of Goertzen Pottery in the Old Bag Factory in Goshen, says as long as you’re careful, the pottery should last as long, if not longer, then glassware.

“Let’s be honest, pottery is going to break if you drop it on the floor, but then again, so will glasses and plates,’’ Goertzen said. “But if you take care of it, it could out live you. My sister-in-law uses pottery every day with her meals and it looks just as good today as it did 15 years ago when I made it.’’

General care

In general, most stoneware items are dishwasher safe. However, dishwashers operate at high temperatures the chemicals used in the cleaning solutions may be incredibly abrasive and corrosive. If the item you want to clean has a decal or an onglaze luster (such as gold surfacing) you’ll want to avoid using the dishwasher. You’ll also want to avoid putting your dish in the washer if it’s been fired at a lower temperature, which is the case with most earthenware utensils. As an easy test, if the glaze on your dish scratches easily, you want to avoid putting it in the dishwasher.

A special keepsake

Goertzen has been making pottery since attending Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., in 1984. To him, the fact that each dish, each glass is made by hand, makes it that more special.

“When you have something that is made from a potter’s hands, you’re getting something you can’t get from a factory,’’ Goertzen said.” Each piece is going to be different and offer something the last one didn’t. Plus, there is a part of the worker in each piece you receive and you can see the style of the maker.’’

And while Goertzen makes and sells pottery made at his store, he admits to using pottery from others at home.

“I used to eat and drink off pottery I made, but now I’m using things that others have made,’’ Goertzen said. “It’s very rewarding to me to notice the little things that another human being has put into a handmade pot. Even something small like the lip being different on a mug makes that piece unique.’’


Goertzen Pottery has everything from high-end pottery to dishes for everyday use. It’s open year around and Goertzen has a kiln both in his studio and in his home. He also enjoys being a mentor for those looking to get into the field of crafting pottery.

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