Ryan Dalman creates art through ceramics and pottery. It was what he wanted to do when he began attending Northern Michigan University in 1995, and while many artists don’t find commercial success with their craft, Dalman has turned his art into a solid business.
“I think it was kind of always a goal as soon as I found that the more manufacturing side of the ceramic arts, is really a production based, historically, type of medium,” Dalman said. “So, you know, you hear stories about the guy who loads up a barge from Minnesota, floats down the Mississippi, and once the barge is empty he gets to sell it, and buy a horse and drive home.”
The ceramics are fired and finished here, but the process for what each piece will soon become begins here. Dalman said, “What I start with is weighing out clay balls to specific weights, which gives me specific volumes and then just let whatever shape start to happen, happen. And then I do 20 at a time; each 20 is different.”
The process for finishing the pieces is lengthy and calls for a team effort.
“Then from the shop we move it out to the kiln, here, and this is a two-day loading process,” Dalman said. “And then we have 40 hours of stoking, so every three to five minutes we stoke wood in to this baby for 40 hours; there’s usually about four or five people that help, and then three days later-ish, four days later, we get to unload.”
His creations can be seen and used in two Michigan breweries, a couple of coffee houses and a few other places, but while Dalman enjoys the relationships he has with Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette and Dark Horse Brewery in downstate Marshall, he also makes more than drinking vessels.
“Something like this,” Dalman said, referring to a large vase behind him, “water crocks, dinnerware sets, you know I’m trying a lot of those lately. But, I just want to, pretty much, keep on keeping on I think. Everything seems to be working out pretty good being in Big Bay.”