Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On ARTour: Inside an old milkhouse October 23, 2013

I FEEL COMFORTABLY AT HOME in the old milkhouse, Kittens underfoot. The smokey scent of a wood burning stove warming a kettle of apple cider. Pipelines, that once carried fresh milk, poking through the wall.

Some of Lessing's ceramics displayed outside The Milkhouse Studio.

Some of Glynnis Lessing’s ceramics displayed outside The Milkhouse Studio.

This is the studio of ceramics artist Glynnis Lessing. This weathered building forked off a circular farm drive along Minnesota Highway 3 just north of Northfield. This land the artist’s home since relocating from Chicago with her family about a year ago.

Tools of the trade on a milkhouse windowsill.

Tools of the trade on a milkhouse windowsill.

I have come here, to The Milkhouse Studio, on a Sunday afternoon for the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour, a once-a-year opportunity to meet local artists where they create.

A sign advises visitors of chickens on the farm.

A sign advises visitors of chickens on the farm.

This rural setting reminds me of my childhood, growing up on a southwestern Minnesota dairy farm where I labored many hours in the milkhouse and barn.

Milking equipment remains in the milkhouse.

Milking equipment, right, remains in the milkhouse next to Lessing’s creations.

Although I never imagined a milkhouse as an artist’s studio, for Lessing it seems the perfect fit—creating in this place where her grandfather milked cows in the adjoining barn. Worked with his hands, just like her. In these aged buildings, on the land.

Love these nature-themed mugs.

Love these nature-themed mugs.

Love these bowls, too.

Love these bowls, too.

And then I noticed the leaf that had settled inside the mug. So fitting.

And then I noticed the leaf that had settled inside the mug. So fitting.

I can see the influence of rural life in Lessing’s pieces. Branches and birds. Leaves and blades of grass. An earthy quality that appeals to me and causes me to reflect on my rural roots.

The Milkhouse Studio front door. Lots of history and memories here.

The Milkhouse Studio front door. Lots of history and memories here.

My memories: Felines circling around a battered hubcap to lap warm milk fresh from the cows. Frothy milk dumped, through a strainer, into the bulk tank. Sudsy water swished inside a milk bucket with a stiff brush. Yellow chore gloves drying atop an oil burning stove in the milkhouse…

Tucked into a corner of a milkhouse windowsill.

Tucked into a corner of a milkhouse windowsill.

FYI: To learn more about the history of the old milkhouse, click here to read Lessing’s blog post on the subject.

And for more info about Lessing the artist, click here.

To read my first post about the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour, click here. Please check back for more posts from artists’ studios.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


21 Responses to “On ARTour: Inside an old milkhouse”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Oh I love those mugs and bowls! What a lovely artist studio this has turned into. I can just imagine what a great space it would be to create in. Lovely pictures as always, Audrey. I am sure it churned up a lot of memories for you.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, yes, the memories…

      Those mugs and bowls are fabulous, so connective to the earth and nature. I expect that is why they so appeal to me.

      I should have asked Glynnis if she ever paints cows on her pottery. Now that would be appropriate, wouldn’t it? Not only would that tie in with the milkhouse, but also with nearby Northfield, known as the city of “Cows, colleges and contentment.”

  2. Now that’s a wonderful art space. Connected to so much, it would be impossible to be uninspired. Old farm buildings have long struck me as perfect spaces to repurpose for creative work. I’ve often thought I’d love to turn an old barn into a writing space, but barns are a little hard to come by in Roseville.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I am just a bit envious of Glynnis’ studio, too. It would be great to have a writing space separate from my home. And, oh, a barn turned writer’s loft. Now wouldn’t that be great.

  3. Beautiful Captures – love ceramics and collecting unique things too:) Happy Hump Day!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I know. There’s something earthy and wonderful about wrapping one’s hand around a hand-thrown mug.

  4. I love when pottery is displayed outside – remember my post about the Orcas Island Pottery from a yearish ago? They do that there – leave the stuff out for the whole year. So cool.

  5. Audrey, I was so happy to read of your memories of your milk-house, my grandfather did pour frothy milk into a cast iron container for the cats out on the step every day and they would scurry around underfoot, jockeying for position. I remember watching the milk go into the bulk tank. How lovely to share these memories!
    Thank you for such a wonderful write up of my studio! It is a place of deep contentment for me and I am so happy when that is communicated to others. Great photos too!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Glynnis. Absolutely, I felt that connection you have with the milkhouse, with your grandfather, with the land. It shows in your work, too. Writing about your studio was my delight and pleasure.

  6. Jackie Says:

    From the big city of Chicago to the country in Minnesota, I love this story ( I did read Lessing’s Blog) I bet you just loved seeing this old milk house and how it’s now been made into an artist studio. I got a good chuckle from the Chicken crossing sign…. gotta be watchin’ out for them chickens 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      What are you doing in Chicago of all places, Jackie? You do not seem like a Chicago kind of girl to me. I was there once in college and that was enough.

      Oh, yes, I loved Glynnis’ studio, just loved it and how the memories of life on the farm came rushing back by simply being in that place.

      • Jackie Says:

        Sorry I guess I confused you Audrey, I was referring to Glynnis Lessing, I read in her blog that she came from Chicago to minnesota…. to her grandfather’s farm. No, I’m still in Rochester although I do like to visit Chicago from time to time 🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Now I need to reread your comment. Perhaps I am the one who is confused??? Yes, it was me, I see. Or maybe tired. Yes, that would also be me.

        Glynnis grew up in Minnesota, if I remember correctly, so she is returning to her roots.

        You’re in Rochester. Got it.

  7. The first photo in this essay is really great. The perspective you create with the studio in the back is priceless. Great job!

  8. Sign me up for that next year!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You would love this tour, Stacey. It’s always near the end of October. And free, unless you buy something.

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