It  should be no surprise that the Pottery Museum is located in Red Wing since all the elements of the industry fell into place in that location.

"It was a very happy coincidence that we had the creativity, the labor force, and the raw product all within a 10-mile radius,” said Char Henn, executive director of the Pottery Museum.

A walk through the museum is a chance to hundreds of ways people turned clay into practical and artistic household items.

“They started out with things like crocks, jugs and churns that people needed just to make life happen, to preserve their food, to make sure that they could keep body and soul together," Henn said. 

Time changed and so the potteries changed.

"Then as better glassware came and refrigeration developed, their stoneware wasn’t as necessary, so they started to branch out and to explore more of their creative side.”

Henn said that a many people who visit the museum find items that bring back memories of pottery pieces they had in their homes or in their grandparents’ homes, including many styles of dinnerware that highlighted family gatherings.

"It is wonderful for us when people have that reaction, and they can place themselves with the items," she said.

With more than 6,000 items displayed in the exhibits covering 13,000 square feet, visitors can see the history of the pottery industry as it developed in Red Wing. Signs help explain the dates and materials used.

Henn said many visitors come with questions about a certain piece of pottery or about the history of the business in Red Wing. She said the museum has a research library where people can get help with their questions or do research on their own.

Some visitors talk about their pottery collections and some leave the museum inspired to take a pottery class and learn to make their own pieces.

The museum also has a store with hundreds of items for anyone wishing to take home some pottery. 

Henn said that looking at historical artifacts helps us place ourselves in the sense of continuum.

“We are still doing the same things. That’s a comfort, especially now,” she said, referring to the pandemic. “Some things are staying the same. You can see for yourself with these items. You can see your parents and grandparents with these items. It hasn’t changed, when so much else has.”

 

Reporter Steve Gardiner retired this spring but continues to write occasional stories. Readers can reach him through the newsroom at rtnews@orourkemediagroup.com.

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