Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A photographic farewell to the Red Wing Pottery salesroom December 1, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Red Wing Pottery and Stoneware is closing its salesroom. According to a news release posted last week on the company’s website, owners Bruce and Irene Johnson are shuttering the store due to stress and pressure related to a lawsuit; threats against them, their family and the business; and more. You can read the complete statement by clicking here.

While the salesroom will remain open only through December 24, the company will continue to produce a limited number of Red Wing Pottery and Red Wing Stoneware pieces at the Stoneware facility. Those products will be available for purchase online.

I visited the store in October 2014 and drafted the following post in May 2015, planning to publish it as part of a series on Red Wing. I still intend to publish that series. Eventually. For now, this post stands alone:

A sign in The Pottery Store summarize

A sign in Red Wing Pottery summarizes the company’s history.

RED WING AND POTTERY. The two are synonymous in the Mississippi River town of Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota.

As far back as 1861, when German immigrant farmer John Paul created the first piece of stoneware from clay found on area land he intended to farm, pottery has been a part of Red Wing’s story.

Potter Mark Connolly

Potter Mark Connolly

Today potters still shape clay into practical and beautiful works of art at Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery. Crocks, pitchers, mugs, bowls, commemorative pieces and much more are created by the hands of those devoted to this craft.

A large jug inside the pottery store lists chapters of the Red Wing Collectors Society.

A large jug inside the pottery store lists chapters of the Red Wing Collectors Society.

Signature Red Wing pottery has a passionate following with chapters of the Red Wing Collectors Society scattered throughout the country. They hold conventions and are serious about this Minnesota pottery. Check out the Society’s website, where experts will even answer your questions about Red Wing pottery for free.

This river town also boasts a new Pottery Museum of Red Wing and plenty of antique stores with Red Wing pottery.

Visiting potters Paul and Denise Morris of Morris Pottery in Ogilvie created Minnesota-shaped pottery for the Red Wing company.

Visiting potters Paul and Denise Morris of Morris Pottery in Ogilvie created Minnesota-shaped pottery for the Red Wing company.

I love this Minnesota-made pottery. I’m not a collector, although I have a few pieces. There’s something about owning an aged crock or an artsy piece of Red Wing pottery that connects me to that German immigrant farmer, to this river town, to the land.

Red Wing Pottery on Old West Main.

Red Wing Pottery on West Main Street.

Join me now on a photographic walk through Red Wing Pottery on West Main Street. The company has a second location, Red Wing Stoneware, along U.S. Highway 61.

Potters were on their lunch breaks when I visited the store.

Potters were on their lunch breaks when I visited the store.

Water and clay.

Water and clay.

Classic Red Wing.

Classic Red Wing with the company’s signature logo.

My husband peruses pottery in the "seconds" section of the store.

My husband peruses pottery in the “seconds” section of the store.

Commemorative items in the "seconds" area.

Commemorative items customized for customers.

More Morris Pottery art.

More Morris Pottery art.

More commemorative merchandise.

More commemorative merchandise.

Beautiful pottery.

Beautiful pottery.

In the "seconds" section.

In the “seconds” section.

Graceful with the signature Red Wing logo.

Graceful with the signature Red Wing logo.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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29 Responses to “A photographic farewell to the Red Wing Pottery salesroom”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Well that is just sad,sad, sad, sad to see a business like this go by the way side because of a lawsuit and the stress surrounding it. I tried to read between the lines of that statement and could only come up with sadness. It is a sign of our times unfortunately when smaller businesses can not make a go of it. This may not be the case here –I suspect there is much more going on—but it makes me sad all the same. I love pottery and we are in the heart of some pretty great pottery places here as well. I would venture to say that it is an art form that is appreciated by many types of people and the Red Wing pottery has to be prized possessions in many households. I wish them well.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    It is with extraordinary sadness that I read of the owners’ plight and a community’s “dark” side. I know that running/owning a business is one of the most difficult undertakings a person can experience aside from the pressures that are put on from the “supportive”(?) businesses in the same area. Hearts and dreams are broken and, if not careful, people, too. Realization of what is being lost/destroyed won’t be apparent until it is gone and then it’s too late. Prayers for healing going to Bruce and Irene Johnson.

    • I think you nailed it with “what is being lost/destroyed won’t be apparent until it is gone and then it’s too late.” Happens all the time in communities, doesn’t it? And I’m not talking just businesses.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        You are so very right. There are many many different kinds of “casualties” and, having been a small business owner, I know the heartbreak of dreams denied because of a “factor” that was completely a blindside.

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    As I read this, I am sipping coffee from a rather large Redwing coffee mug.

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    I don’t think any of the “hatred and anger” is a result of the 1967 strike. In my opinion there was an unfortunate decision made by Red Wing Pottery to go after the collectors (the very collector societies that support their pottery business) for the use of their “signature Red Wing logo.” I don’t know if they sought out a simple logo licensing agreement or not, but that would have been the route I would have taken. I’ll admit that I do not know the entire story here, but this is seemingly a bad move and one that will be felt long after the salesroom closes.

  5. How Sad – I was not aware this was happening to this business. Red Wing was a fun day trip growing up – stop in to the pottery store and then find a place to have lunch. I even went there on a date with my husband when we were first dating for an afternoon of shopping and having lunch – the tradition continued into adulthood for me. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Sue Ready Says:

    Great iconic photos of a Minnesota landmark. Taking us inside the studio gives us a feel for all the meticulous work involved designing and implementing the pottery. I will miss my annual visits there. .

  7. Beautiful pottery. What an unfortunate story

  8. THAT IS SO SAD!!! I really love that store. Whenever we go to Redwing we visit it. (And come away the poorer for it!) Shoot!

  9. I just read the press release – I know nothing about what is going on but it sounds awful. So very sad to see it go – the whole strip mall, even. Wow.

  10. Don Says:

    Humm…….woebegone….sorry Mr. Keillor………

  11. Littlesundog Says:

    I feel the same “sadness” reading the letter as others have here. The powers that be often crush the efforts of another. This is one of the aspects of community that I will never understand – and we have it here too.


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