Pottery has been an integral part of the arts community in the St. Croix Valley since the 1950s. Nationally and internationally renowned pottery has been produced here for decades, and that pottery tradition has’ amplified the diversity of arts created in artist studios dotted throughout the rural communities of the St. Croix Valley.
For 25 years, the anchor of this tradition has been the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. The host potters, many of whom have studied and thrown pots with legendary potter Warren MacKenzie, are known for continuing the tradition of mentorship for emerging ceramic artists. And while the tour brings thousands of visitors to the valley in May, the dozens of potters based in the St. Croix region continue to produce and sell beautifully, hand-crafted, functional pottery year round.
Open studios during Take Me to the River provide an opportunity for artists to mingle with visitors, talk about their craft and spread their love of pottery to others. The third weekend of Take Me to the River features an exceptional array of pottery exhibitions both on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the St. Croix River.
Just north of the intersection of Highway 95 and US 8 is Peter Jadoonath Backyard Pottery Sale. Peter moved his studio to this Shafer homestead in 2014 are resumed the annual Backyard Sale he began in St. Paul. With fellow potters Joe Singewald, Jason Trebs, Mike Helke and Sarah Dudgeon, Peter’s sale is one not to be missed. Work by these potters showcases the young talent in ceramics that will carry the St. Croix Valley pottery tradition into the next several decades. Oh, and you have to check out the chickens hanging out among the pottery.
Head south on Highway 95 and you will find Guillermo Cuellar and Friends: Fall Pottery Sale. Guillermo moved to the St. Croix Valley a decade ago from his native Venezula. He chose the St. Croix Valley after meeting and working with Warren MacKenzie at the latter’s workshops in the South American country. In addition to being a host studio during the spring pottery tour, Guillermo hosts a fall pottery sale with guest potters. This year he will be joined by potters Jim Lorio, Mike Norman, Alana Cuellar, Olivia Jenson and Ruth Martin as well as woodworker Paul Howe and textiles by Melanie Ebertz of ArtAndes. Guillermo’s open studios are now for high-quality ceramics as well as amazing views and welcoming hospitality.
Continue your day of unique pottery finds by travelling south to the Nick Earl Fall Pottery Sale at Abnet Farm in Stillwater, MN. Come experience beautiful handmade pottery spread throughout the century-old barn and its surrounding gardens. Join Nick and guest potters Bill Gossman, Ernest Miller, and David Swenson for a weekend full of wonderful art and great people in an inspiring setting.
Over the past several decades, dozens of potters have moved to the communities around the St. Croix River—often converting outbuildings and barns into studios and building kilns on rural homesteads. New and converted studio spaces are a highlight of the four stops that make up Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour.
From Abnet Farm, head south through Stillwater to the St. Croix River Crossing and head into Wisconsin. Follow the signs for Hwy E and you will find Zac Spates’s studio, the northern most stop on the Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour. Zac’s newly built studio and showroom is only eclipsed by his amazing functional and sculptural, wood-fired pottery. This year he will be joined there by Nick DeVries, Ryan Myers and Elizabeth Pechacek. While each potter has their own distinct style their work all draws from tradition—cultural and geographic.
To continue on the Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour, either head south through Hudson or follow back roads through forests and farms to I-94 and get off at exit 10 in Roberts. South on Hwy 65 and left on Coulee Trail and Valley View Road brings you to the architectural gem that is the studio of Wayne Branum and Mark Pharis. Here you will find uniquely formed functional pottery and highly structural decorative pieces by both potters. They are joined this year by Candice Methe Hess.
South on Hwy 65 and then Hwy 35 leads you to River Falls. One street from the Kinnickinnic River you will find S.C. Rolf Studio with a picket fence bordering a front yard filled with pottery. The refined style of Rolf’s work shows well in this intimate setting as does the work by this year’s guest potters Kristen Pavelka, Simon Levin and Willem Gebben.
West of River Falls in the rolling hills of Western Wisconsin is the home and studio of Jan McKeachie Johnston and Randy Johnston. They have transformed their rural property in to homage to pottery with separate outbuildings converted into kilns, studios and a showroom. They have invited four women potters to join them this year: Lisa Buck, Marjorie Wade, Rhonda Willers and Kate Fisher.
The ceramics made in the St. Croix Valley are characterized by functionality and clean designs. In recent decades, local potters have experimented with form, function and design to create modern pottery with roots tradition. This extended trip through the St. Croix Valley highlights some of the best work being created by established and emerging potters in the area.
(Want to take more time at each stop? Consider staying overnight in the charming Phipps Inn in Hudson, WI. This lovingly restored Queen Anne is conveniently located in toward the middle of the open studio locations.)
- Nick Earl Fall Pottery Sale at Abnet Farm, 16885 Square Lake Trail, Stillwater (Sept. 21-23, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; free admission)
- Guillermo Cuellar and Friends: Fall Pottery Sale, 1885 263rd St., Shafer (Sept. 21-23, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; free admission)
- Peter Jadoonath Backyard Pottery Sale, 30208 Tern Ave., Shafer (Sept. 21-23, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; free admission)
- The Phipps Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1005 3rd St., Hudson, WI (reservations, rates and availability online at www.phippsinn.com)
- Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour Hudson, Roberts and River Falls (Sept. 21-22, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sept. 23, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; free admission)
- Zac Spates, 524 County Road E, Hudson
- Wayne Branum & Mark Pharis, 449 Valley View Rd., Roberts
- S.C. Rolf, 115 Lewis St., River Falls
- Randy Johnston & Jan McKeachie Johnston, N8336 690th, River Falls