Thursday, September 30, 2010

Touring (and a small rant)

Michael Tonder creates impressive sculptures from glass that otherwise would find its way into a landfill. Last weekend, his work became a temporary sculpture garden on the shore of Thomas Lake.

This week, autumn is showing her spectacular side with a bounty of colors that shimmer in the sunshine. It's a great time to do a little touring along the North Shore, and the Crossing Borders Art Tour is a great excuse for getting out and about.

For 10 days a group of artists from Duluth to Grand Portage open their studios to the public and you can meet the people behind the pottery, metalwork, woodturning, weaving and more. We visited several of the studios last weekend and feasted our eyes on all the beautiful things ... except there were no plant-pots or other specific garden-related gear.

This seems to me to be a wasted opportunity. Especially when it comes to pots. I saw many, many beautiful pottery pieces on my tour -- some probably could be used in the garden -- but nothing that said "plant me." I asked one of the potters why I was seeing only plates, bowls and mugs but no planters. Was it competition from mass marketers? Was it economically silly for an artist to produce planters when the plates and bowls sold so well? He agreed that it probably had something to do with the economics of producing a planter. He pointed out that a reasonably-sized planter takes up the same amount of valuable real estate inside the kiln that several smaller pieces take up. And he'd have to charge more for the planter than the smaller pieces. But the less-expensive, smaller pieces are more likely to sell. So, at the end of the day, he doesn't see the market supporting him making planters when there are so many nice-looking pots coming from places such as Vietnam.

His argument makes sense, but it doesn't completely persuade me. I'd love to see local artists do some cool pots that would be appropriate to plant in or use as cachepots. These wouldn't be the workhorses of container gardening, but there are certain plants or certain locations that deserve something with a little extra kick. Any ideas where I can find some?

P.S. The Crossing Borders studio tour and sale continues through Sunday. For information, see


  1. To locate pots that have a different appeal than those found in big box stores try a florist. I prefer the ones with a greenhouse attachment in case I need an inspirational scent of soil. Most have some for sale and if you can't find what you are looking for they usually have a catalog of ones that they can order for you. For one of a kind pieces, ceramic classes. When schools and colleges have shows offer to buy a piece you like. When this happens they are motivated to continue creating. Or, they may create one specifically for you.

  2. Good idea about student art shows!