That call galvanized Dito to create the Mill Valley Potter’s Studio (MVPS) in the heart of Tam Junction, a facility for which there was so much pent-up demand that it has grown nearly every year since its inception, and now also includes Wheelhouse, an artistic hub adjacent to the Dipsea Cafe in which 15 ceramic artists rent space to create pottery.
Dito’s MVPS is hosting its twice-annual End of Summer Student Sale, a showcase of the work from the studio’s students, both adults and children, on Saturday, October 21, from 10am-4pm in the Proof Lab parking lot at 244 Shoreline Hwy., with an open house at MVPS (254 Shoreline Hwy.) to follow from 4:30-6:30pm. A portion of the proceeds from the event go to Drawbridge, an arts program for homeless children.
So about that call: Hutchinson, the co-owner of the then-7-year-old Proof Lab in Tam Junction, was pondering the idea of taking over an adjacent 10,000-square-foot warehouse that had previously been occupied by Webster Gears, thus giving Proof Lab’s surf and skate shop and outdoor apparel shop more space. But with all that new square footage, it also triggered the possibility of completely reimagining the hub of Tam Junction.
“Will had this great vision and shared interest to activate the area and really give back to the community,” Dito says. “He was willing to invest in the site to turn it into something central to the community.”
In that moment, Dito was ready to contribute the artistic component to the equation, launching the Mill Valley Potter’s Studio in a small indoor space surrounded by a pumpkin patch around Halloween 2011 within a venture that was then known as the GROW Art & Garden Center. That venture eventually grew into a collective of subtenants that includes MVPS, the CNL Native Plant Nursery, Studio 4 Art, a hands-on art studio for children and Alexi Glickman’s Magic West music school.
The six years since Dito made that initial leap with the Mill Valley Potter’s Studio has been quite a ride. She first got into ceramics at Redwood High School, and later, as an art history and environmental studies major at UC Santa Cruz, she joined a studio nearby.
“It was really great – I could go in go in and work at my own time and pace, and it’s really where the love of the hobby and the love of its therapeutic properties emerged,” Dito says. “It just has this great ability to slow you down. You get lost in the material and it completely takes you out of your busy schedule.”
After college, Dito got into the solar energy industry, working for a couple of different companies, first as a consultant and eventually in business development. She continued to take ceramics classes while doing so.
Dito was determined to make MVPS a sustainable business, knowing that it was extremely low-margin.
“My slogan was, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ like in Field of Dreams,” she says. On one hand, I thought, ‘what the hell am I doing?’ But I had a full-time job so I didn’t really care. I just wanted it to be sustainable.”
“The bigger focus was that I just knew there was a demand for this sort of space,” she adds. Marin County used to be the home of the artists! Move over, bankers.”
In 2015, Dito left the solar industry to work at an interior architecture design firm in San Francisco, and then in December 2016, she left that firm to have a baby with her husband, John.
Over the years, Dito says she’s relied on a stalwart team, including operations manager Sarah Wright, programs manager and instructor Nadia Tarzi Saccardi and an array of adult and youth instructors.
“It’s just evolved into this great community right in the heart of Tam Junction,” Dito says. “We’re excited to showcase the latest batch of amazing pottery created here!”
The 411: The Mill Valley Potter’s Studio (MVPS) hosts its twice-annual End of Summer Student Sale, a showcase of the work from the studio’s students, both adults and children, on Saturday, October 21, from 10am-4pm in the Proof Lab parking lot at 244 Shoreline Hwy., with an open house at MVPS (254 Shoreline Hwy.) to follow from 4:30-6:30pm. A portion of the proceeds from the event go to Drawbridge, an arts program for homeless children. MORE INFO.