Main Street Kansas: Elk Falls couple turn passion into a family business

Steve and Jane Fry work in their studio in Elk Falls.

ELK FALLS, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas couple has taken their passion for pottery and turned it into a family business centered around love.

Elk Falls, Kansas is an eerily quiet, quaint town. There’s a single, curved road that leads drivers into the city. Not far away from the town’s entrance sits Elk Falls Pottery, and just inside the screen door sits Steve Fry.

Fry is pedaling and perfecting his latest piece. And, just a few steps away Steve’s wife Jane is busy mixing glaze.

“We have a notebook constantly full of orders that we work on,” explained Steve. “That’s what we are working on right now.”

But the Frys’ work starts long before, and a long ways away from their pottery shop.

“In our case it starts in Barton County, in western Kansas,” added Steve.

Barton County is where Steve digs up and collects the clay he and his wife of more than 40 years eventually transform into dishes, mugs and even piggy banks.

“So we haul 5,000 pounds of clay back here from Great Bend about once a year,” said Steve. From there, the 65-year-old¬†artist sifts through the dry material. “I grind the clay into a course powder.”

After dousing it in water, letting it sit for a few weeks and stirring it in an old bath tub, the Kansas-made clay is ready to go, and ready for the Frys’ personal touch.

“I enjoy the fact that I can see the whole process from the raw material, from the earth and take it through all of the steps involved and have a finished product that we sell to the customer,” explained Steve.

“We try making about anything and we have had some interesting orders over the years,” added Jane.

A snapshot of one of the Frys’ oddest orders — a cow pie trophy.

Open since 1976, there is not much the couple hasn’t created for their customers.

“He said ‘we want you to make a trophy with a cow pie on the top of it and a golf tee and a golf ball on top of a cow pie,'” said Steve.

So Steve did just that. He created a cow pie clay trophy. And that is proof these aren’t any ordinary potters. They’re dedicated to their craft, their customers and to the small town of Elk Falls.

“It’s part of the care I guess that we put into each piece we make,” said Steve. “That’s part of us.”

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