Getting Potted in Minnesota

by Laurie Gilberg Vander Velde

“Hi, son, do you need any pots?”  I asked my son on the phone.  I was standing on a hillside in the beautiful St. Croix River Valley.  Dark clouds dropped cold, almost icy, droplets on us one minute; the sun shone the next.  We were bundled up against the cold spring weather we had not anticipated when we headed up to the Minneapolis area for the annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour over Mothers’ Day weekend.  Wooden planks which spanned sawhorses were the simple palette for a varied display of handmade ceramic pots.   

Pottery for sale on the hillside outside Guillermo Cuellar's studio overlooking the St. Croix Valley.

My son replied quickly to my inquiry.  “No, Mom, I don’t need any pots…And you don’t either!”  He was probably right, but he was talking to a confirmed pot head. My husband Michael and I love ceramics, and it had taken us years to get to the pottery tour. We’d known about the Minnesota potters for a long time. Warren Mackenzie, American pioneer studio potter, taught at the University of Minnesota for a long time and inspired many students with his simple, functional, affordable pieces. We’d admired his work, read books about him and had managed to acquire a few of his pieces over the years.

Was it necessary for us to buy another pot by Warren MacKenzie or any other accomplished potter?  To tell the truth, necessity hasn’t entered into our pursuit of fine handmade pottery since back in the late sixties when we bought our first pieces at the Ann Arbor Artist Guild sales. In more than forty years of marriage, pottery has been a passion for both of us.

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