Nov. 27, 2006

The Polish potters of Dassel

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

With the recent purchase and on-site building of a 60 cubic foot gas kiln, Aron and Jena Levandowski will be busy this winter building up an inventory.

Located on the corner of Highway 12 and Fifth Street in Dassel, the Levandowskis’ working studio will be open by appointment.

“If someone needs to shop for a wedding present, just give us a call,” said Jena.

The kiln or Agnus, as Jena calls it, was built on-site by a professional kiln builder. The kiln uses gas to heat the pottery, similar to a large furnace, Aron explained. On average, a rack of pottery takes 14 hours to complete.

The kiln’s temperature must reach 2,350 degrees or the Pyrometric Cone 10. A slab of cones is placed in a closed window, Cone 10. When Cone 10 is just past a 90-degree angle, the pottery is ready.

The “extremely large investment” has only been fired once, just nights before the open house, but the couple has had a great demand for their pottery. This winter, they will spend time building up their inventory.

With Aron in charge of the wheel throwing and Jena doing the hand building, the business is truly a partnership.

What sets their pottery apart from others is the use of a leaf stained into select pieces and the walnut textures along the rims, according to Jena.

A hot item during their November open house was the bear, moose and leaf mugs.

Other pottery includes bowls, platters, goblets, vases, buttons, jewelry, and more, all in an array of colors.

The Levandowskis have been to 14 shows this year throughout the state and have pottery in two retail stores, three galleries, and the Latte Da Coffee Shop in Dassel. They have wholesale in Bemidji, St. Paul, and the North Shore.

“We have the demand now,” Jena said.

People are calling from all over the US with requests for their pottery.

A woman in Boston received their pottery as a gift, and she purchased more as a gift to a friend in Ohio.

“We have pottery all over the world,” Jena said, including Istanbul, Germany, Finland, and Spain.

“We keep a map of where our pottery is,” she said.

“I don’t think three-and-a-half years ago we would’ve thought we’d be where we are today,” Jena said.

“We love our work. . . people love our work,” she said.

“Our customer response has pushed us to grow,” Aron added.

The Levandowskis have had customer comments about how reasonably priced their items are for such good pottery.

Jena explained that if they don’t sell pottery they don’t make more.

“You can’t get better if you don’t make more pottery,” she said.

Aron began wheel throwing in high school, and he suggested Jena learn hand building using the slab roller.

“I was self taught,” she said. Now, she presses buttons, jewelry and other handmade items.

This winter, Jena wants to work on the wheel to become more fluent, she said.

Their open house was a big success in the community, with nine other artists participating.

“People were surprised to see such an array of art,” she said. One woman traveled from Wisconsin for both of their open houses.

“We want to make Dassel the home of the Polish potters,” she said.

For more information on the Levandowskis’ pottery, check out their website at www.levandowskipottery.com or call for an appointment to veiw their gallery at (320) 275-9298 or (651) 295-9911.

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