DAWSON, Minn. (WCCO) — If you have stoneware in your home, there is a chance it came from a Minnesota couple.
Lucy and Gene Tokheim began making pottery 45 years ago.
What started as a few pieces here and there, has turned into a cross-country business.
“It is very peaceful out here,” Lucy said. “I love the quiet. I love the night skies.”
If artists need space to be creative, then it’s mission accomplished for the Tokheims.
Serenity for the couple can be found in the Western Minnesota countryside. And even during a spring snowstorm, the commute to work isn’t half bad.
“Not at all. I only have 50 feet to walk,” Gene said.
That’s by design.
The Tokheim’s don’t like to be far from a studio filled with stoneware, crafted with a Scandinavian touch.
“It was just the right thing for me. I loved it,” Gene said.
Forty-five years ago, Gene took a pottery class in college and never looked back.
But for the first 20 years, business was slow, especially while trying to raise three boys. Unlike the fire in a kiln, there was nothing sure-fire about their future.
“We started to make a living,” Lucy said. “I thought, I guess I was wrong. I guess we can make a living here.”
Not just a living, an international influence.
The Tokheim’s have sold stoneware to people in all 50 states, and to pottery collectors worldwide — everything from mugs to bowls to cups to water pitchers.
It starts with Gene.
During our visit, he wheel threw clay, creating a pitcher with a handle. His foot never left the pottery wheel.
“You can’t tell someone how to do it, they just have to do it. That’s how you learn,” said Gene.
It’s gotten to the point that Gene can look at a pitcher and make the next one almost exactly the same- with Tokheim logo on every piece.
The stoneware is glazed and later it’s put in a kiln that reaches up to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It takes 19 hours to heat it up and two days to cool it,” Gene said.
Afterwards, it’s Lucy’s turn to add her personal touch by painting designs onto the bowls.
The end result isn’t something that’s just pretty to look at, but something that can actually be used.
“It’s very durable, but you do need to not be clumsy. The bowls are great for baking bread,” said Lucy.
And it’s not just pottery: The Tokheim’s have studied many forms of Norwegian art overseas.
“These are my Norwegian-style knives that I make by hand,” Gene said.
Every day they are redesigning, trying to stay on the cutting edge of their crafts, all while hoping to inspire the next generation of artists.
“If they are really driven to do it like I was, almost like I had to do it, then I would say, you just go ahead and go for it,” Gene said.