Wilz Pottery    Denise Wilz    7915 Mountain Road     Macungie, PA 18062     215-260-1133

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About the Artist

I began Wilz Pottery and creating redware in 2002.  My inspiration for using red earthenware clay came about from an adult evening class taught by my friends Loretta and Ivan Belac, where I used my great-grandmother's tin cookie cutters to make ornaments.  I have since had replicas made so that I can use the originals for the big fat sugar cookies I make at Christmas time.  At the same time I began collecting books on Pennsylvania German folk art as I looked for ideas to decorate a wooden door in my kitchen.  

Prior to 2002 I was employed in the corporate world as a computer programmer and analyst for almost 20 years.  I graduated from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1982 with a degree in Studio Art.  

 I love the deep rich color of the red clay.  I am self-taught and continue to refine and expand my skills each day.  I begin by working with a clay that is a dark red brown, and when fired, becomes a beautiful red.  I like shiny things and have decided not to age my work.  Each piece is created individually.

I authored an article titled “Pennsylvania Redware” for the Pottery Making Illustrated magazine in early 2008, and my work was featured on the cover.  This article was also included in the books “Electric Firing : Creative Techniques”, published in 2008, and two additional publications, in 2015 and 2016, by The American Ceramic Society.  My “Partridge in a Pear Tree” plate was on the cover and an article written by Wendy Komancheck was in the Antiques and Collecting Magazine issue of April 2008.  Also my work was included in the Early American Life August 2017 and 2015 issues, as well as the Holiday issues of 2006 and 2007. 

 I have two videos available on YouTube and there was a third by Channel 69 News during the early morning of October 22, 2013 with anchor Melanie Falcon as she decorated her own snowman plate during the live broadcast, which is sadly no longer available online. I have been teaching the art of Pennsylvania Redware since 2009 and enjoy seeing my students create their own pieces of this heritage craft!

I am a Master Artisan of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, and the  President of its Lehigh Valley Chapter.  I am included in the Directory of Traditional American Crafts presented by Early American Life magazine and my work has been featured in the August 2017 issue.  My artwork is found at shows and shops located near Allentown, Pennsylvania.  

My Work

Many of my designs are inspired by Pennsylvania German folk art of all kinds, including pottery, fraktur and painted furniture.  I use traditional techniques and tools to create my work – rolling pins to slab clay, a disc cutter to create circles, slip cups for slip-trailing, scratch nib tools, styluses, a coggle wheel to decorate the edges of the plates, molds for shaping the plates, and handcrafted tin cookie cutters for ornaments.   My work is fired in an electric kiln rather than the traditional wood-fired kiln, and I have replaced the heavily leaded glazes of yesteryear with commercial glazes.

Some of my favorite antique sgraffito designs are attributed to potter Conrad Mumbouer (1761-1845), of Haycock Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania; and I have had the opportunity to touch two of his pieces.  I was delighted to see that my sgraffito tool marks are similar to his (as if we used the same tool) and he too liked to leave his scratch marks visible, and did not smooth them out.  I want my patrons and students to see each stoke of my scratching tools.  Sgraffito is my favorite decorating technique as I find it detail-oriented, and I learned that YES I CAN draw!  And this folk art was practiced by many that simply found joy in its creation no matter their skills and talents.

I create slipware designs using slip cups made of contemporary materials; drawing the squiggles, lines and dots as the Pennsylvania German potters did on the red earthenware clay. Slip-trailing can create simple or very detailed designs – I keep my designs on the simpler side as did many of the early potters.


My article on Pennsylvania Redware has been included in these books published by the American Ceramic Society

I'm having fun with my "Hearts and Tulips" idea.  This is one of my first and was sold at the Christmas City Artisan Pop-Up Shop.  I am very fortunate to have this plate used to promote The Christmas Feast Show and Sale at the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, PA during December 2016.  

 On September 17 & 18, 2016 I participated in the Christmas City Artisan Pop-Up Shop held in conjunction with Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites 275th Anniversary Celebration; demonstrating the sgraffito technique on Sunday  at the Single Sisters' House, 44 West Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018  Morning Call article


Student at the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, PA


I teach the sgraffito decorating technique through classes held at the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville twice a year.  Additional class opportunities will be listed on my Show Schedule page as soon as they are scheduled. Contact me to schedule a class at your location.


How to Decorate Pottery in the Pennsylvania Redware Style video featured June 13, 2012 on the Ceramics Arts Daily site 



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