Minnesota is home to some of the best potters in the world. For generations, potters have been honing their crafts, setting up studios, and building an appreciation for ceramic arts in the North Star State.
In 2012, Minnesota’s rich artistic history made it possible for a group of potters to come together to hold the first Minnesota Pottery Festival. The first Festival started with 15 potters from seven states and, over a decade, grew to 35 potters from 14 states. The audience of the Festival has also grown to more than 3,200 in 2022.
The Minnesota Pottery Festival is one of a growing group of organized festivals throughout the United States; it’s part of a movement within the fine craft industry of emerging independent art shows being run by artists instead of professional promoters or other for-profit organizations.
A Weekend of Pottery Education and Fun
The Festival takes place in Masonic West River Park in Hutchinson, Minnesota. The booths are set up in a horseshoe formation, so as attendees arrive from the on-site parking areas, they can see the full breadth of the show.
This year, the festival features 38 potters from 14 different states, and includes 9 first-time participants. There are local food trucks and both the Crow River Winery and Bobbing Bobber Brewery set up.
Each year, one emerging artist is selected to showcase their work for the first time. This year, that’s Wendy Eggerman from St. Paul. She shares that her work is “primarily influenced by her love of antiques, especially hobnail glass.”
The weekend is packed with free activities. There are individual artist technique workshops, firing demonstrations, and throwing competitions.
- Each year, three participating artists demonstrate part of the process for making or using their work. Some past examples include Majolica Glaze Technique Tutorial, Taco Tray Handbuilding Steps, Using Lace for Decorating Clay, and Throwing and Altering Tall Shapes.
- Throughout the weekend, Joe Frank McKee, a potter from North Carolina, presents live raku firings. Dating back to the 16th century, the raku technique is when pots are taken from a kiln while they are still hot and then placed in an environment where materials, like sugar, horsehair, and feathers, can be added to melt or burn, resulting in organic and one-of-a-kind markings. By starving the environment of oxygen and adding other ingredients, like alcohol, the potter can manipulate the glazes to appear matted, fumed, or almost cosmic-looking.
- One of the highlights of the weekend is the Pottery Olympics, where participating artists sign up to compete for the Tallest Vessel, Widest Bowl, and Widest Platter. They also go head-to-head in a blindfolded throwing contest. The audience really gets into the event, asking questions, rooting for their favorites, and good-fun heckling.
- The Kid’s Tent is for all ages who want to get their hands dirty and take home an air-dry masterpiece.
Check out the final schedule online at mnpotteryfestival.com about two weeks before the festival takes place.
The Festival is a nonprofit, run by an all-volunteer board, funded by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund created by the Legacy Amendment, the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, and many more generous donors and sponsors.