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