Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

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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

 

Part II From Albert Lea: An unbelievable shop, Adams Originals October 28, 2015

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Adams Originals Shop, 238 S. Broadway Avenue, Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Adams Originals Shop, 238 S. Broadway Avenue, Albert Lea, Minnesota

THE CLUTTERED EXTERIOR tipped me off to what I would find inside Adams Originals Shop. Yet, I was not prepared. Not prepared for the mounds of merchandise heaped into this narrow building in historic downtown Albert Lea.

Dolls, dolls and more dolls. Everywhere.

Dolls, dolls and more dolls. Everywhere.

Adams Originals rates as truly original. I’ve never seen a store like it with thousands of dolls and other items crammed onto shelves, set on the floor and piled into every conceivable space.

Just inside the shop and looking toward the front door.

Just inside the shop and looking toward the front door.

Inside, I simply stood for a minute taking it all in, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of goods displayed along both sides of a single narrow aisle branching into nooks of merchandise.

A Lone Ranger poster for sale.

A Lone Ranger poster for sale.

Much more than dolls pack this shop.

Much more than dolls pack this shop.

A piece of merchandise showcased outside the store.

A piece of merchandise showcased outside the store.

You can’t meet another customer in here without sidling sideways. Even on a blustery Monday morning, shoppers stopped by to peruse the goods offered by Eloise and Jack Adams.

Eloise Adams

Eloise Adams

That’s Eloise, pronounced Eloyce, as in rhyming with Joyce. Eloise doesn’t correct mispronunciations of her name; it happens all too often. It doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s just honored that her dad named her and with the uncommon pronunciation he chose.

An example of the art Eloise creates with labels.

An example of the art Eloise creates with labels.

She is as unique as her store, exuding a peaceful calm in her soft-spoken voice and gentle manner. I don’t think you’ll meet a kinder soul. In just a few minutes of conversation, I already felt comfortably at home with this 78-year-old. She speaks with the blessedness of a saint, living her faith. She speaks with the cadence of a poet, her words thoughtful and rhythmic. She speaks with the passion of an artist, for she is an artist. She speaks with the love of a mother and a grandmother and a great grandmother. She is all of those.

Eloise pulled this portrait off the hook so she could read the note about the date it was gifted to someone. I don't recall details. But I do remember how Eloise lovingly noted the girl's beautiful blue eyes accented by her blue dress.

Eloise pulled this portrait off the hook so she could read the note about the date it was gifted to someone. I don’t recall details. But I do remember how Eloise lovingly noted the girl’s beautiful blue eyes accented by her blue dress.

In short, Eloise is passionate about life and people and celebrating each day. She didn’t tell me that. She didn’t need to. It shows.

 

Adams Originals, 5 doll close-up

 

Adams Originals, 8 doll close-ups

 

Adams Originals, 26 doll close-up 2

 

When I asked Eloise about her favorite doll, she politely refused to name one. That would be, she said, like asking her to choose which of her six children is her favorite. It can’t be done.

There's a whole section of Barbie dolls and Barbie stuff.

There’s a whole section of Barbie dolls and Barbie stuff.

Even Elvis is among the dolls.

Elvis has not left the building.

Lots and lots and lots of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls...

Lots and lots and lots of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls…

But she’ll share, when asked, how this whole doll collecting thing started. A friend collected dolls and, she said, you can’t hang around too long with a doll collector without getting hooked yourself. The dolls belonging to that friend, who died of cancer, are now housed in the Freeborn County Historical Society Museum after being showcased downtown for many years.

An example of Adams pottery, center, sits among other merchandise.

An example of Adams pottery, center, sits among other merchandise.

Although dolls dominate Adams Originals, this shop isn’t solely about dolls. Eloyce and her husband are also artists who produce stoneware pottery, much of it for churches. Chalices. That sort of functional pottery. But there’s decorative pottery, too, like sculpted lions or a dragon, made years ago for a dragon-loving son. Eloise noted that Jack’s shoulders are wearing out, curbing pottery throwing.

An example of Eloise's Eddie Cochran art.

An example of Eloise’s Eddie Cochran art.

Pressing Eloise, I learn that she is a Minnesota State University Mankato art major. Prints of her pen and ink art are scattered throughout her shop. She designs art for local celebrations like Big Island Rendezvous and Eddie Cochran Days and will custom create pieces for individual customers.

Second floor windows hint at what's inside the shop.

Second floor windows hint at what’s inside the shop.

Her work is exquisitely detailed. And, Eloise noted, she drew the building that now houses Adams Originals when it was still a bookstore. On the bookstore’s last day, she and Jack stopped by to thank the booksellers for being part of the Albert Lea business community. They learned then that a purchase agreement fell through. The couple needed more space for their business which had outgrown their home. So they bought the booksellers’ building.

Today, at nearly eighty years old, Eloise has no plans to retire. Why? She loves what she does. And that’s a good enough reason to stay in business.

Check back tomorrow to read the third installment in this series from Albert Lea. Click here to read my introductory post.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An afternoon at the Sogn Valley Craft Fair October 4, 2014

NEARLY THREE DOZEN ARTISTS ring the farmyard, a grove of trees sheltering their tents on an autumn day that bites with a brisk wind.

Artists shelter in tents.

Artists shelter in tents.

Leaves litter the grass. Clouds break away into sunshine. Caps clamp heads. Hands shove deep into warm pockets.

Hand blown glass by Steve Claypatch of Ascension Art, Minneapolis.

Hand blown glass by Steve Claypatch of Ascension Art, Minneapolis.

And folks meander, pausing to admire the art that has drawn a crowd into the Sogn Valley southwest of Cannon Falls for the annual Sogn Valley Craft Fair.

Julie Crabtree creates fabulous mixed media modern embroidery fiber art.

Julie Crabtree creates fabulous mixed media modern embroidery fiber art.

The work of Renee Nation, fiber artist and felt maker.

The work of Renee Nation, fiber artist and felt maker.

Colleen Riley of Eureka Pots was selling this garden art among other soda fired ceramics.

Colleen Riley of Eureka Pots sells this garden art among other soda fired ceramics.

Here jurored artists vend their creations—photos, pottery, fiber art, jewelry, woodcarvings, prints and much more.

Homestead apiaries sells honey, beeswax candles and more.

Homestead apiaries vends honey, beeswax candles and more.

Here beekeepers sell honey and beeswax candles.

A welcoming vendor sold baked goods, preserves and more at Ruthie's Kitchen while the baker returned home, just down the road, to bake buns for Sunday's fair.

A welcoming vendor sold baked goods, preserves and more at Ruthie’s Kitchen while the baker returned home, just down the road, to bake buns for Sunday’s fair.

A blueberry tart from Ruthie's Kitchen.

A blueberry tart from Ruthie’s Kitchen.

Tenders of the earth peddle pumpkins and apples. Baked and preserved goods draw those hungry for a taste of Grandma’s kitchen.

Local band, Muchos Machos, entertains.

Local band, Muchos Machos, entertains.

Musicians strum and croon.

Dogs are welcome.

Dogs are welcome.

Dogs, accompanying their owners, are a reminder of farm dogs that once roamed this rural place in the shadows of looming silos.

An overview of the craft fair.

An overview of the craft fair.

There is something comforting and peaceful about being here among artists in a land where hardworking Norwegian immigrants once settled. In this place, this Sogn Valley.

Parked in the parking area along the farm drive.

Parked along the farm drive.

FYI: The Sogn Valley Craft Fair continues from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, October 5. Parking and admission are free. Click here for more information.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Kerry Brooks Pottery from Dock 6 Pottery, Minneapolis.

Kerry Brooks Pottery from Dock 6 Pottery, Minneapolis.

The art of Renee Nation, fiber artist/felt maker.

The art of Renee Nation, fiber artist/felt maker.

This Sogn Valley farm site presents a beautiful rural setting for the craft fair.

This Sogn Valley farm site presents a beautiful rural setting for the craft fair.

Mariella TerBeest-Schladweiler of Preston has been crafting handbags at Helen's Daughters Handbags since 1989.

Mariella TerBeest-Schladweiler of Preston has been crafting handbags at Helen’s Daughters Handbags since 1989.

Richard Stephens of Super Session Press shows a block and print he crated.

Richard Stephens of Super Session Press shows a block and print he crated.

Vibrant zinnias at the Homestead apiaries stand.

Vibrant zinnias at the Homestead apiaries stand.

A carving by Bob Oates of Sogn Valley Woodcarving.

A carving by Bob Oates of Sogn Valley Woodcarving.

The pottery shed of Dawn Makarios who hosts the Sogn Valley Craft Fair.

The pottery shed of Dawn Makarios (left) who hosts the Sogn Valley Craft Fair.

A door inside the pottery shed.

A door inside the pottery shed.

An example of the pottery Dawn Makarios creates.

An example of the pottery Dawn Makarios creates.

Bring your appetite. There are food vendors on-site.

Bring your appetite. There are food vendors on-site.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A peek at the South Central Minnesota Studio ArTour October 15, 2011

This building at 101 E Fifth Street in downtown Northfield includes a studio that showcased the art of Nancy Carlson, Lucky Rimpila and Meg Jensen Witt.

OK, PEOPLE, YOU have one more day to tour 23 art studios featuring 46 artists during the South Central Minnesota Studio ArTour.

The free tour, which opened today, continues Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. in the Northfield, Cannon Falls and Faribault area.

Now I’m going to be honest with you here. My husband and I went on the tour last year. We loved it. But we really didn’t weave the event into this weekend’s plans what with painting a bedroom this morning and then sampling chilis at the Faribault Fall Festival today and other stuff that involved work.

But then we drove up to Northfield to look at a van for sale and, as long as we were in the vicinity of most of those open studios, we toured about a half-dozen. And let me tell you, we were in for some sweet surprises.

Here’s a sampling from those studios, which should inspire you to abandon any other plans you have for Sunday and make a day of it visiting with artists and perusing (maybe even purchasing) their work.

Meet metalsmith Tim Lloyd, surrounded by the tools of his trade. He’s a congenial guy, retired from 40 years of teaching metalsmithing at Carleton College in Northfield. He’ll explain things to you, answer your questions about what he keeps in narrow drawers in his workshop. You’ll see leaves in one drawer. He’ll tell you about the prairie dock (a native prairie plant that looks like rhubarb) and the ginkgo leaves he imprints into silver.

And then he might mention that he has a work of art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. A teapot. At the Smithsonian.

And so here are some of Tim’s teapots, not exactly like the one at the Smithsonian, but beautiful, just beautiful. He’ll even listen to you tell a story about a railroad teapot reclaimed from a junk pile on a North Dakota farm, if you have a story like that to share.

So when I saw this vessel, I thought of a Communion chalice, which it is not. But Tim has made those, too.

Because Tim didn’t seem to mind, I moved in close to his work desk and photographed these tools.

Moving along, artist Kirsten Johnson wouldn’t allow me to photograph any of her art (not all that uncommon) except this visual journal of watercolor paintings. In January, she began painting an hour a day and continued for five months. About mid-March she took lessons in watercolor. She learned this: “Water is boss.”

Down-home, earthy simplicity is how I would describe this bowl by Meg Jensen Witt, who once worked at a food co-op with someone I met several days ago. Small world. And, yes, I’ll tell you about this interesting mutual acquaintance in a few days in another post.

I still don’t know if he was telling me the truth or spinning a tall tale. But the creator of this stained glass window introduced himself as Lucky Rimpila. I mean, who has a name like Lucky? Lucky, apparently.

And then there’s Nancy Carlson (for sure her real name) who was in the same studio as Lucky and Meg. Nancy used a dropper to create mini works of art with India ink. She grouped and framed them together and here you’re seeing one snippet.

 Meet Louise. She is not an artist. But she is an original poodle (or something like that) before poodles shrunk. Louise was hanging out in potter Tom Willis’ Sunset Studio near Dundas. Tom says Louise is shy and that she needs a haircut. He is right.

Since Louise was sort of blocking the view of Tom’s pottery, above, I moved in close to photograph it for you. Then I went outside his studio and found more…

I could show you many, many more close-up photos of Tom’s pottery. Lovely, lovely art. But here’s an overview. You can go to his studio and examine it more closely on your own. Tomorrow. Remember, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Oh, and if you time it just right, you may get to see Tom and ceramic sculptor DeAnn Engvall take a dragon out of the 1800-plus degree raku kiln. Yes, that is hot. And, yes, DeAnn has gotten burned, singed her eyebrows once.  And, yes, I took this photo at a weird angle so just tip your head.

Next, the red hot dragon (see it?) is placed inside a garbage can, where it ignites newspaper. About then you can make a smart comment about a fire-breathing dragon before the lid is slapped onto the garbage can. A half hour later, a colorful dragon emerges. DeAnn will explain to you that the fire “pulls the oxygen molecules in the glaze to the surface.” And if you’re like me, you’ll think, “OK, if you say so.”

That concludes my mini-tour of several art studios. Now, have I convinced you to take in the South Central Minnesota Studio ArTour tomorrow?

For more information, click here at www.studioartour.com.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling