Made in the Midwest: Red Wing Pottery

Posted at: 07/10/2013 6:29 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It’s an iconic brand that has been around for almost as long as Minnesota has. Red Wing Pottery opened in the mid 1860's, but over the years, has molded itself to go with the times.

The iconic image of the red wing has been the trademark of Red Wing Pottery for more than a century.

"People love being able to purchase things that are iconic. You know, Faribault Woolen and Red Wing Boots and Red Wing Pottery,” said Owner, Scott Gillmer.

Scott Gillmer is the third generation owner of Red Wing Pottery.

"Sure, it's changed and downsized over the years, but it still tells a great Minnesota story,” said Gillmer.

A story that started with craftsman making pottery by hand. But the company industrialized itself in the 1900s, making it the largest pottery making company in the country. Scott says adapting the company over the years has kept them in business.

"Switching from farmers to homeowners, and now having lost out to foreign competition, really down-sizing our production and output and creating craftsman like product again,” said Gillmer.

Red Wing Pottery has now come full circle, and has gone back to its roots of old world style pottery making.

"Our main purpose of our business is of course to draw people in, to experience the history, to experience pottery manufacturing and to see the authentic products that we make,” said Gillmer.

The pottery wheels open for customers to see how it's done. Just two skilled potters hand turning four hundred pots a month.

"We throw the pots, we glaze them and decorate them, we load the kiln, unload it, so it's more of a complete pottery experience, which I like,” said potter Mark Connolly.

Part of this unique coating that Red Wing Pottery has, the secret ingredient is actually salt. Once the kiln reaches temperature they take a few cups of it and actually throw it into the holes, it vaporizes from there on and it actually sticks to the pots.

"There's not a lot of salt glaze manufactures left in the country, so we're one of the few that do that and we're also one of the few that have very skilled potters producing our ware,” said Gillmer.

"In this modern age of ours, things are usually made by machines and mass produced in faraway places and right here they can buy something that's local,” said Connolly.

Red Wing Pottery is very valuable. There are groups of collectors dedicated to the authentic pieces. Some of the antique pottery has been sold for up to fifty thousand dollars. The pottery made today can be bought in the showroom as well on their website.