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New owners fire up the kiln at Red Wing Pottery

Potters Mark Connelly (left) and Brett Monahan sand down pieces as they are taken out of the kiln Friday, March 14, 2014, at Red Wing Pottery Salesroom in Red Wing, Minn. (Forun News Service photo by John R. Russett)1 / 2
The first pieces of salt-glaze pottery fired in the Pottery Salesroom kiln since Bruce and Irene Johnson took over in late December were taken out Friday March 14, 2014, the same day the couple reopened the Pottery Salesroom for business in Red Wing, Minn. (Forum News Service photo by John R. Russett)2 / 2

RED WING, Minn. -- As customers walked through the door with the “Yes, We’re Open, Welcome” sign, Pottery Salesroom owners Bruce and Irene Johnson welcomed them to see the first pieces of salt-glazed pottery to come out of the kiln since the Johnsons took over Red Wing Pottery in late December.

The back room of the Salesroom, which houses the kiln, was still warm, and the kiln was reading a temperature above 200 degrees – nearly 2,000 degrees cooler than when it reached its peak close to 12:30 a.m.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Bruce Johnson said, with the anticipation of opening the Salesroom last week and finishing their first firing of the kiln.

Red Wing Pottery was on the brink of permanent closure, former owner Scott Gillmer said last fall. The Johnsons, who had just taken over Red Wing Stoneware, stepped forward. They closed the Pottery Salesroom, albeit temporarily, for renovations.

In the three months the Johnsons have owned Red Wing Stoneware and Red Wing Pottery, Bruce Johnson said he has already seen the benefits of the businesses working together.

The Salesroom kiln needed some adjustments before the first firing and one of the employees from the Stoneware, who works with the Stoneware kiln, came to get it set up and ready for the firing.

Bruce Johnson said work on the adjacent coffee shop is coming along nicely and the plans are to have it open in mid-April. Small details have changed in the plans since they acquired the Pottery Salesroom at 1902 Old West Main St., along with the brand, but their larger, overarching plans have not changed, he added.

Irene Johnson said the last few days have been a bit hectic, but it felt good to open the doors to the public. There’s still a lot to do, she added.

Bruce Johnson said he is working on lining up local, national and even international artists to teach in classrooms at the Salesroom.

“What an experience,” he said of watching the firing process, adding that they plan to fire pottery at the Salesroom once a week.

A grand opening is planned for May with the coffee shop and classroom space ready for use. Bruce Johnson said they’ll plan accordingly so not to compete with the fishing opener.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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