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, Ani Kasten, Mike Helke, Ross Nordquist 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 more than decade ago from his native Venezula. He this region 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 and artists. This year he will be joined by potters Alana Cuellar, Doug Hanson, Jim Lorio, Leila Denecke and Mike Norman as well as woodworker Paul Howe and textile artists ArtAndes and Diane Gamm. Guillermo’s open studios are known 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 three stops that make up the 16th annual Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour.
To reach the first stop head south on Hwy. 95 to go east on I-94 to 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 and Sean O’Connell.
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, Joyce St. Clair Voltz, Lars Voltz 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 potters Chris Singewald, Marjorie Wade, Rhonda Willers and Kate Fisher to join them this year.
(Did you catch that both the first and last pottery studios have a guest Singewald? Those would be brothers Joe and Chris.)
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 Phipps Inn in Hudson, WI or Water Street Inn in Stillwater, MN. Both options are located toward the middle of the six open studio locations.)
- Guillermo Cuellar and Friends Fall Sale on the St. Croix Trail, 18855 263rd Street, Shafer (Friday, September 27-Saturday, September 29, 10am-5pm; free admission)
- Nick Earl Fall Pottery Sale at Abnet Farm, 16885 Square Lake Trail N, Stillwater ( Friday, September 27-Saturday, September 29, 10am-5pm; free admission)
- Peter Jadoonath Backyard Pottery Sale, 30208 Tern Avenue, Shafer ( Friday, September 27-Saturday, September 29, 10am-5pm; free admission)
- The Phipps Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1005 Third Street, Hudson (reservations, rates and availability online at phippsinn.com)
- Water Street Inn, 101 Water Street S., Stillwater (reservations, rates and availability online at waterstreetinn.us)
- Western Wisconsin Pottery Tour, Three locations in Roberts and River Falls (Friday, September 27-Saturday, September 28, 10am-5pm and Sunday, September 29, 11am-4pm; free admission)
- Wayne Branum & Mark Pharis, 449 Valley View Road, Roberts
- S.C. Rolf, 115 Lewis Street, River Falls
- Randy Johnston & Jan McKeachie Johnston, N8336 690th, River Falls