Eyes of Eau Claire: Dick Millheiser

Passion inspires local potter to create art in retirement

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Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

Dick Millheiser is a potter in Eau Claire. As a retired art teacher, he now shows his art in galleries, at his studio and in art festivals.

A local potter’s life work brought art to youth, helping them find their muse as individuals, he said, expressing themselves through art.

“I think you need to follow your passion for making art,” said Dick Millheiser. “If it is something that burns within you, then you just have to do it. And I think that’s the case with a lot of artists — there’s that something inside of them that just requires them to express themselves through art materials.”

Millheiser is a retired art teacher. A native of Neenah, Wisconsin, Millheiser now runs Claymore Pottery, where he makes handmade items for people.

Millheiser taught art class for 30 years in Altoona and said careers in art can be fantastic but require hard work if people want to find success. He said other artists must work other jobs, such as waiting tables or teaching to be able to succeed financially.

At Millheiser’s studio in Banbury Place, visitors can find a large collection of different series, patterns upon which he bases his designs.

One piece in a series is a boat-shaped dish, a traditional creation of potters. He said artistry is a matter of exploring the curiosity inside of oneself and questioning different steps in the process and observing how they can be altered.

When the potter makes a piece, he said he works in small batches. Unlike commercial or other artists, he makes about ten mugs at a time instead of 100. He said making them in mass quantities would not correspond with his personality, because he wants to continue exploring his different series.

Because he is no longer an art teacher, Millheiser said he also wants to keep his pottery business a mix between work and play. He is able to support himself through his pension and through the money he makes on the side through his studio, online sales, galleries and art festivals.

“I don’t want it to be a job, I want to still experience the magic involved in art making and not get to a point where it’s a job,” Millheiser said.

Millheiser showed his work recently at a gallery in Eau Claire’s downtown, at 200 Main, where Burke is an owner. She said his work has a strong personal touch. At the gallery, they showcase a variety of art, from painters to textile artists, as well as fair trade items.

“Much of his work is functional in terms of pitchers and vases but he also has other pieces that are very organic and most of his work is really strong in texture and color and type of glazes,” Burke said. “He just puts a personal touch in creating really unique pieces.”

Millheiser presents his art at five to six art festivals each year around Wisconsin, including Wausau and Madison this year. He also took his art down to the Mainsail Art Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida this past spring.

To see more of Millheiser’s work, check out his Facebook or Etsy pages.