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Red Wing Pottery Makes Its Fiction Debut

Dec 14, 2007
The novel, Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace is set in Minnesota among the states many natural wonders, rich history, and eclectic towns providing a vivid backdrop against which the story unfolds. One of the key plot points involves Red Wing Pottery, manufactured in the Minnesota town of the same name for nearly 100 years.

The matriarch of the Pierson family, Beverly, collects Red Wing Pottery and has gone into the antique business opening Past Treasures Antiques in downtown Wayzata, Minnesota. Red Wing had its origins in the rich clay discovered as the area was being settled in the 1860s. Over nearly 90 years the company would produce salt glaze pottery, utilitarian stoneware, art pottery, cookie jars, and over 100 patterns of hand-painted ceramic dinnerware. Much of the stoneware was marked with a distinctive red wing on the front, in later years the art pottery and dinnerware was stamped with a red wing on the bottom.

In the novel, Beverly and Bill Pierson give their son Paul and his bride Pamela, a blue tinted lily bowl and pitcher, a stunning example of Red Wing artistry. Officially advertised as "Ewers and Basins in blue tint" - the set was offered in the 1920s and 30s along with hundreds of other stoneware items for the household and farm. Because few of these gorgeous sets survived intact, in mint condition they are extremely valuable.

As Kay, the narrator of the story notes, Red Wing Pottery is an integral part of Minnesota's history. But the pottery also holds an important place within the history of America and the pottery industry, as in the early 20th Century the company was the largest manufacturer of pottery in the United States. Other Red Wing pieces of note mentioned in the book include Nokomis vases that were part of the art pottery line during the 1930s; cherry band pitchers which were manufactured during the same time period as the lily pitcher and basin; and cookie jars produced until the plant's closing.

Today, Red Wing Pottery is highly sought after by collectors and is often referred to as "the Cadillac of pottery." Ten years after the plant closed in 1967, a group interested in collecting the pottery for both its beauty and historic significance founded the Red Wing Collector's Society. Every year during the second week in July, thousands of Red Wing collectors from across the U.S. converge on the city of Red Wing for their annual convention, where members buy, sell, barter, and trade pieces of the pottery. Highlights of the Red Wing Convention include auctions, where mint condition salt glaze pottery, unusual or one-of-a-kind pieces can sell for thousands of dollars.

Want to learn more about Red Wing Pottery? There are numerous web sites devoted to the history, preservation, and selling of Red Wing and some of the best are listed below. Another good place to shop for Red Wing is on eBay, where more than a few Red Wing aficionados like Beverly Pierson have caught the collecting bug and developed spectacular collections of the pottery.

Resources:

Red Wing Collector's Society - Founded in 1977, the Society is a great place to learn more about the pottery and its lasting legacy.

Red Wing Collector's Society Foundation - This non-profit foundation's mission is to preserve the history of Red Wing Pottery. The RWCS Foundation maintains a museum in Red Wing, MN and provides educational materials and scholarships.

Red Wing Dinnerware - Todd Hintz and his wife Ivy Loughborough are avid collectors of Red Wing Dinnerware and have designed an extensive web site on the topic. Every pattern is represented.

Schleich Red Wing Pottery Museum - In October, 2001, Jerry and Louise Schleich opened this one-of-a-kind museum in their hometown of Lincoln, NE. Since then, hundreds of visitors from around the world have viewed the collection. Over 5,000 pieces on display chronicle the history of Red Wing Pottery.
About the Author
Catherine Johnson is the author of Shade of Darkness, Shades of Grace published through iUniverse. For more about the novel, visit Catherine Johnson Novels .
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