Pottery Museum Grand Opening and Sale of 70 Gallon Jug Highlight 2014 Red Wing Collectors Society Convention

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Red Wing, MN? In most years, reporting that a 70 gallon Red Wing jug sold for $17,000 at the Red Wing Collectors Society (RWCS) Auction would be big news in itself. But pair that with the grand opening of the new Pottery Museum of Red Wing, and you have one of the most memorable RWCS Conventions ever.

Much to the enjoyment of more than 400 attendees, the RWCS Foundation proudly opened the doors to the new Pottery Museum on Wednesday, July 8 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and fundraising event. The 13,000 sq. ft. facility, which is located in the Pottery Place Annex building at 240 Harrison St. in Red Wing, has more than 6,000 pieces of Red Wing stoneware and pottery on display – largely in thanks to the donation of longtime RWCS member Louise Schleich and her late husband, Jerry. The couple created a museum to display their collection in Lincoln, Neb. many years ago, but it was always their intention to move the collection to Red Wing once a permanent, adequately sized location could be acquired.

The 38th Annual RWCS Convention officially kicked off the next day, with the Schleich Family presenting the keynote address at Red Wing High School. They discussed their longtime passion for collecting and the process of moving the collection back to where it was made.

This year’s Convention brought nearly 1,500 visitors to the city of Red Wing during the week of July 7 to buy, sell and learn more about the many lines of Red Wing stoneware, art pottery and dinnerware. This year’s event was sponsored by Red Wing Stoneware, Red Wing Pottery, Larry’s Jugs Antiques and other local businesses.

Events throughout the week included the annual business meeting, a “Crock Hunt” scavenger hunt around the historic Mississippi River town, and the always anticipated Saturday Show & Sale. There was also a special display room at Red Wing High School, where members created their own unique displays for the education and enjoyment of attendees, combined with some fun and creative competition. Members bought and sold items throughout the week in the parking lot at Pottery Place Mall. About 200 volunteers helped make this year’s Convention a success.

As mentioned earlier, the “big” news from the always anticipated RWCS Convention Auction was that a 70 gallon shoulder jug sold for $17,000. The jug, which had been restored, is one of only three that the Red Wing Stoneware Co. made for the 1923 Minnesota State Fair. Only one other of these jugs is known to have survived, and it is now part of the Pottery Museum’s collection; it was one of the pieces donated by the Schleich Family.

Other items of interest in this year’s auction, which was operated by Houghton’s Auction Service, included a 4 gallon salt glaze crock with triple target decoration (hairline), $5,000; a 4 gallon North Star salt glaze water cooler with upturned leaf (mint), $2,000 and a mint “Minne-ha-ha Brand” advertising crock, $1,900; Two 1977 (first-year) RWCS Commemoratives sold for $1,150 and $1,050, respectively.”

Notable art pottery items included a blue/green #687 Chromoline vase, $650, and an M3016 Decorator Line vase in silver green glaze, $400. Top dinnerware lots included two sample Red Wing dinnerware plates. One that was likely made for Sheraton Hotels in the 1960s sold for $525, while another with the Turtle Dove pattern sold for $340. The auction, which consisted of about 190 items, brought in nearly $78,000 in total sales.

The year’s commemorative, which could be purchased only by RWCS members, was a Red Wing Success Filter. Two limited-edition commemoratives were also produced. These were mixed in with the regular commemoratives and all commemoratives were packaged in sealed boxes, so a small number of members were fortunate enough to get one. Of all the Commemorative Success Filters that were made, 90 percent were zinc glaze with a red wing, 9 percent were salt glaze and 38 were blue-sponged. RWCS Commemorative Manager Bob Morawski also had several special items made that were auctioned off to benefit the Society.

Attendees had a good selection of topics to learn about during the educational sessions held on July 11, including an orientation for first timers, Red Wing zinc glaze, recent finds from the old pottery dump, Red Wing dinnerware, kiln building, insuring your collection, history of Iowa’s Eldora Potteries  and creating the 2013 RWCS Commemorative. Local potter Richard Spiller held hands-on pottery classes for adults, and the RWCS Foundation held an info session on all the happenings at the new Pottery Museum.

In recognition for all the research they have performed and knowledge they have shared on Red Wing’s many lines of dinnerware, longtime friends and RWCS Members Larry Roschen and Terry Moe were inducted into the RWCS Hall of Fame later that afternoon during the Annual Business Meeting. In addition, it was announced that the following members were elected to the RWCS Board of Directors: Larry Birks (President), Paul Wichert (Vice President) Dan Beck (Treasurer) Nancy Lambert (Historian) and Jerry Mounts (Rep. at Large). Re-elected to the Board were John Sagat (Secretary) and Russa Robinson (Rep. at Large). Following the meeting, the 3nd annual Crock Fest celebration featuring food vendors and music by Generation was held at Red Wing’s Central Park later that day. It was sponsored by Red Wing Stoneware and Red Wing Pottery.

Another unique aspect of the RWCS Convention was the participation of the younger generation through the KidsView program. The Society is on the leading edge of creating engaging and educational ways to get the younger generations involved in collecting. The focus on these RWCS members is an important part of the vision of the Society to ensure its continued existence and growth. Many interactive and challenging activities and seminars were offered for children of all ages. Former Red Wing Potteries employee Marion Bjorklund told the kids about her time working as a plate painter, and Emily Nelson (Red Wing Art Reach) and Susan Obermeyer (Northern Clay Center) lead the kids in hands-on art projects and pottery creations.

Young Red Wing collectors ages 13 to 20 participated in the Young Collectors Club at Convention. Activities included a hands-on pottery wheel opportunity led by RWCS Members Frank Sheldon and Mike Robinson, and a hike up Red Wing’s famed Barn Bluff. Young Collectors Club creator and chairperson Wendy Callicoat announced the during the Annual Business Meeting that she was stepping down from her role. The RWCS is now in search of members to lead KidsView and Young Collectors.

The next official RWCS event will be the annual MidWinter GetTogether, which will be held at the Olympia Resort and Spa in Oconomowoc, Wis., February 6-8, 2015. This will be the first time the event is held in Wisconsin after a long stint in Iowa. To make lodging reservations, contact the Olympia Resort at 800-558-9573. Registration for the MidWinter event will open in October and can be done online at the RWCS website or by phone or mail.

The Red Wing Collectors Society was founded in 1977 in Red Wing, Minn. and is devoted to educating people about all American pottery. There are about 4,000 members worldwide. The Red Wing Potteries had diverse pottery lines that included stoneware, dinnerware and art pottery. For more information or to become a member, call the RWCS business office at 800-977-7927, e-mail director@redwingcollectors.org or log on to www.RedWingCollectors.org. Find the RWCS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.