Elena Netherby was born on a former Spanish land grant near Sacramento. She and her husband, William, came to Oakland in the early 1920s and began building homes. Elena was a potter, and using their construction skills, they patented the Netherby pottery wheel, which sold well throughout California, particularly in universities and art schools. After her husband’s untimely death, Netherby took over the management of the construction business, which she oversaw throughout her life, building hundreds of homes throughout the Bay Area. She studied ceramics at Mills College with F. Carlton Ball starting in 1939. The two of them cofounded the Mills College Ceramics Guild, which heightened the reputation of the Mills program. Tony Prieto followed Ball at Mills (1950–67). Netherby and the Guild were active throughout his tenure, during a time when Nora Eccles Treadwell worked in the studio there. The Guild was dissolved after Prieto’s unexpected death.