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Stories Potters Tell: Clay and Community in the St. Croix Valley

Pottery on display during the annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour outside Robert Briscoe's studio in Harris, Minnesota in 2014. Photo: ACC Archives

Pottery on display during the annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour outside Robert Briscoe's studio in Harris, Minnesota in 2014. Photo: ACC Archives

Pottery on display during the annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour outside Robert Briscoe's studio in Harris, Minnesota in 2014. Photo: ACC Archives

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Nestled a short drive east of the Twin Cities, between Interstate 35 and the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, the St. Croix River Valley has long been home to a mix of diverse artists' studios. Among jewelers, painters, and sculptors exists an anomalous community of potters, all of whom have been quietly making functional ceramic objects for decades. Over the past 23 years, these potters have joined together to host the immensely popular St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. In 2014, the tour featured over 50 artists from across the United States and welcomed more than 5,000 visitors.

Through conversations and research, it became clear to the ACC that the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour was a unique phenomenon with little documentation. With a successful application to the Minnesota State Arts Board for a Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant, the ACC was able to undertake the task of tracing the legacy of the potters living, making, and selling work in the St. Croix Valley. As part of this project, oral histories were conducted with nine living St. Croix potters: Robert (Bob) Briscoe, Linda Christianson, Guillermo Cuellar, Warren MacKenzie, Connee Mayeron-Cowles, Jeff Oestreich, Will Swanson and Janel Jacobson, and Richard Vincent. The ACC also spoke with with Edie Abnet, the widow of Richard Abnet, and craft scholar Janet Koplos.

We're happy to announce that the audio recordings, transcripts and photographs associated with all 10 oral history interviews can now be accessed online. Check out this collection of resources, and the video above, to learn more about this incredible community of artists at work in Minnesota. 

Make sure to catch ACC's Perry A. Price and Jessica Shaykett at NCECA 2015 where they'll be presenting on the process of chronicling the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour oral histories, 3:15 p.m. on Friday, March 27, in Ballroom D/E.

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