|Morris Pottery a brief history 1982-2015
|When I left college in 1982, I found a job in Iowa at a production pottery,
Earthworks of Alexander IA, run by Deborah Vestweber. I was 2 credits
short of my Art B.A. All I really wanted to do was work with clay, so I
signed up for a year as a hand builder/studio helper
Paul Morris was an itinerant potter working part time at Earthworks. Having
discovered clay in High School, he went on to work in production potteries as
a thrower, so by that time he was a skilled craftsman with 6 years
experience on the wheel.
We were married in 1982, and ventured on our own that spring to produce
our own work.
In 1983 we moved to the property near Ogilvie in east central Minnesota.
We built an Olson fast-fire wood kiln, and lived in a camper. We sold our
work at art festivals around the state, and supplemented our income by
working in other potteries.
Using salt in a firing is hard on the kiln, so eventually we built a larger
cantenary arch kiln and switched to LP gas for firing when the old woody
died. Work was steady through the eighties,and Paul worked in several
production potteries while Morris Pottery grew into a studio we built as an
addition to the mobile home. All of the materials used to build our kilns were
scrounged from used brick piles. We travelled many miles around the state
hauling bricks back.
1990 brought big changes with the birth of our daughter. My pottery
responsibilities ended during my high risk pregnancy,and as a full time mom
the pottery work became part time for me. Paul was working on a big order
at another pottery where he met Phil Echert. They decided to collaborate,
firing all of the work in our salt kiln. Rockhard Stoneware Company was
born in 1991. We were now our own production pottery. Eventually a much
larger salt kiln was built Several workers joined us over the years, helping
with making the pots, firing, and selling the work around the country.
I worked part time in the studios, here in Ogilvie, and at Phil's in Champlin
MN. My job was slip trailing the pottery with various designs most numerous
being Horses. Paul was the kiln master along with production throwing and
travel, he did not get a chance to put his own designs on the wares very
often. I slip trailed about 90% of the work produced during those years. The
Rock hard pottery was sold extensively in the eastern US. In the busiest
year we did 32 shows. On the road they met gallery owners that took on
our work, and in the hey day we were in 22 galleries. After 13 years of this
very hectic pace, We dissolved the partnership known as Rockhard
We had many reasons for this move, but mainly we no longer wanted to
produce pottery in huge quantities necessary for an operation this size,
wanting more input in quality control. Paul spent more time on the road than
he did in the shop. Yes we were getting a steady income for the first time in
our working lives, but something was missing. With Rockhard Stoneware we
accomplished many things. Thousands of pots went all over the world and
just over a half million miles had been put on in the process. Twenty plus
galleries carried our work,we had a spacious new studio, but in the meantime
our relationship was suffering and our marriage nearly dissolved. We both
decided that if this was the way we had to make money, it wasn't worth it.
For us it was like jumping off a cliff, but not into the unknown, we were still
working with clay and there was the desire to create high quality work
made only by us, so we resurrected Morris Pottery. The old RH kiln was
fired three more times before it became unsafe due to salt corrosion. It had
been fired over 200 times. Paul dismantled it early spring of 2006, and
rebuilt it into a wood fired model.
In 2010 we began using electric kilns and started experimenting with cone 6
glazes and clay bodies. This gave us the luxury of year round firing in the
pleasant indoors of our studio. After much trial and error we have found the
combinations that work with out techniques to our satisfaction.
As we launch into 2015 , plans are underway for a new wood burning kiln to
be built on the old kiln site. There are some aspects of the wood fired
stoneware that we both miss and look forward to delving into as spring
Updated February 2015, DS Morris