Potters find a new place in New Richmond
New Richmond is fast becoming a hotbed of activity for pottery enthusiasts.
Thanks to local potter Mark Lusardi's efforts, a community pottery studio is emerging at the Community Commons (the old middle school).
Dubbed "The Pottery Place," the studio has secured five functioning pottery wheels, kilns and other necessary equipment to allow local beginners and experts to create their own works of art.
"We're about two years ahead of where we expected to be," Lusardi said as he offered a tour of The Pottery Place facilities. "We have a better set up than even the Phipps (Center for the Arts in Hudson)."
The local studio is in a couple large classrooms in the Commons. There is plenty of elbow room for potters to work and display their finished items.
A good deal of the available equipment inside was donated by the family of a potter from Stillwater who recently passed away. Other items were destined for the landfill but Lusardi rescued them for use in the local studio.
Lusardi will continue to gather up any equipment he can to enhance the experience at The Pottery Place. He also hopes to secure donations so that a fence can be installed outside the facility that will house the kilns used for firing pottery.
"My goal is not to make any money doing this," he said. "I just want to teach people. I want to pass along what somebody gave me 20 years ago when I got into pottery."
To accomplish that goal, Lusardi is teaching a number of classes through Community Education in the coming months. The classes range from "Try It" sessions for beginners to "Family Days" events involving all ages. Lusardi even offers private pottery lessons for people who want to give the craft a try but can't make the scheduled classes.
This Saturday, Oct. 27, Lusardi is offering a Raku Community Firing Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Pottery Place. For just $10 or a donation of a coat to the Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center, community members can decorate their own tile and fire it in a kiln.
This past weekend was the first "official" kick-off event at The Pottery Place.
Richard Gruchalla and Carin Rosetti, well-known potters from Duluth, were on hand Saturday and Sunday to offer a rare workshop on the Raku pottery process.
"They don't do this type of thing often," Lusardi said of the couple. "Because when they're doing this, they are not in the studio. And when they aren't in the studio, they aren't making any money."
The workshop filled up quickly once it was announced. A few local potters signed up for the event, but potters from as far away as North Dakota were also on hand for the gathering.
For the first part of the weekend, participants watched demonstrations of Gruchalla and Rosetti's work. Later on, they had some hands-on opportunities to decorate various pieces of pottery that were fired using the Raku technique.
Lusardi, who works for Continental Clay in Minneapolis, said he's been working full time in the pottery industry since 2001.
In his previous job, Lusardi said, he made more money but he was not happy.
"I'm happy now," he said.
That's why he's so excited about sharing The Pottery Place with others in the community looking for ways to develop their artistic talents.
"This is one of the hidden things that are happening in New Richmond," Lusardi said. "You don't have to go into the Twin Cities to experience things like this. It's happening all around us."
For more information on upcoming Pottery Place events, call 715-243-7421 or visit www.newrichmond.k12.wi.us and click on "Community Ed."