By Taylor Barrett & Max Wellman
Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, and it’s exciting to know that Bozeman—and Montana in general—is home to incredibly gifted potters that make and sell their work right here in town. If you take a short walk from downtown Bozeman up Wallace St., you will find the home of Gangbuster’s Pottery, where you can see Ryan Mitchell creating amazing pieces of art on an almost daily basis.
What I find most unique about Ryan’s work is his studio and gallery set up. When visiting his studio and gallery, you are able to watch him make new pots while simultaneously choosing your favorite pieces to take home. While picking out a dimple cup (which we highly recommend), you might be able to watch it being produced right there on the spot. From living in a society of mass-production and consumerism, it is comforting to know exactly where your products are produced, and not only that, but exactly who is making it and where they are sourcing their materials.
Mitchell puts his heart and soul into his work, and it’s evident. After moving here temporarily to study at Montana State University for a student exchange, it was clear that it was time for change, with Mitchell mentioning, “I came out here on a student exchange program for a semester, and then realized I could just live in the mountains.” After deciding to make the move permanent, Mitchell then graduated from MSU with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts.
Always having a desire to create and use his hands, Mitchell mentioned that the tactile quality of clay is what drew him toward this particular medium. Also telling us that “being able to create things in whatever shape you want, the versatility of the material, I really just kind of fell in love with it right away.”
Graduating in 2007, Mitchell was farming during the day, working a full-time job, and making pots during the nights and weekends, telling us he “couldn’t not do it.” But after honing his skills, a transition began and Mitchell found himself selling his pottery full-time.
Gangbusters Pottery is now well established and Mitchell sells pots at his gallery, craft fairs, farmer’s markets, on consignment, and for custom orders. But out of all of the sales he makes, he especially appreciates those who stop by his gallery. Having this space has allowed his business to flourish, with the large amount of growth in Bozeman, the neighborhood has grown, bringing back frequent customers and turning them into regulars. Mitchell mentioned that the biggest compliment he receives is from those who use his pottery every day, telling us that he generally likes to make “functional porcelain tableware,” including cups, mugs, plates, and serving pieces––all built with the mindset of withstanding everyday wear-and-tear.
A lot of the influence for Mitchell’s designs come from the subtle landscapes that surround us in every direction. Sometimes it might not even be a conscious decision, but Mitchell reminds us that our environment has an impact on our perception even when it’s only on a subconscious level.
Ryan also went on to discuss his favorite tools while throwing on the wheel, and his favorite methods for glazing and firing his pottery. Mitchell has several wheels for the different stages of the process, and he prefers electric kilns due to the efficiency that they offer.
As far as materials go, Mitchell is proud to say that he sources the majority of his clay and glaze materials from the Archie Bray Foundation, just 100 miles away in Helena. Mentioning that it’s an amazing resource to have in the area, and it feels good not having to depend on shipping everything in from larger cities like Portland. We like to keep it local, and so does Mitchell––we’re lucky to have a potter like Ryan in our town.
Be sure to check out our video below to learn more about Ryan and get an insider’s look into a day in his studio.
A Day in the Studio: Gangbusters Pottery
Purchase & Follow Gangbusters Pottery
Gangbusters Pottery is located at 724 N Wallace and reachable at (406) 581-8067