Monday, May 11, 2009

St. Croix

This past weekend I went to Minnesota, land of lakes, Scandinavians... and potters! The Upper St. Croix (go to Stillwater, MN and go north) is home to some absolutely wonderful, talented, and well known potters.

This weekend was the annual St. Croix Pottery Tour. The potters in the area host the tour and invite certain potters to participate with them. It is a prestigious and respected group. Jennie and I have heard about the tour for years and many of the potters who participate but have never been able to visit MN during that particular weekend. It was a treat and very inspiring. Potters are some of the friendliest and down to earth artists so of course we enjoyed meeting and talking to most of them. The following artists were some of my favorite. Take a look at thier beautiful work.

Guillermo Cuellar

Dick Cooter

Jan McKeachie Johnston and her husband

Randy Johnston

Jeff Oestreich

Anthony Schaller

There were others but we weren't able to get to them all. For those of you who want a little more information about what you are looking at in the pictures above, let me give you a few morsels to hold while you view.

In all of the pots above you can see slight or not so slight variations on the surface of the pots. This variation is prized among many potters because it shows the process and atmosphere of the kiln (firing process) so well. Also, if you were unsure, let me just tell you, it's gorgeous. In some cases there is a very high sheen on the pot with drastic variations in color. This is usually the result of salt. A potter shoves quite a bit of salt into the kiln (gas or wood kilns) during the firing process and the fires lick and whip it around the pot, giving it that lovely sheen and variety.

Pots with the variations and without the sheen are usually products of a wood kiln (without salt). Wood kilns are fired with... wood (!), cords and cords of it, and the pots are in direct contact with the flames and ash. Again, giving the surface of a pot variation in color from one side to the next. Depending where a pot is in the kiln, it can have more or less effect from the flames.

Good potters know thier kiln so well, they know the placement and effect of different spots inside. The atmosphere of a kiln is very much of a science, one that I am anxious to learn more about.

So, those morsels are only about the surfaces. There is much more to fall in love with as you learn about graceful shapes, proportion, feel, weight, etc., all of which will produce a deeper appreciation for the pots and potter. But you don't have to know all of that to fall in love. Be confident in your initial aesthetic opinion. There is value in that. Something about a particualr work of art grabs you and others don't. Thats a fact and an important one. But if it really grabs you, imagine learning why and loving it even more!


  1. My favorites are the Johnsons' work. I LOVE platters and plates. Missed you!

  2. I like their pots too! I got to talk to Jan M-J for a little bit and really enjoy her humble attitude. I wish i had remembered my camera. Some of her pots really showed off her aesthetic and her background. Glad to be back! :)

    Have you framed that painting yet?