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Hebron potter looks to the future

Robin Reynolds stands beside her new Katenary arc kiln at her place of business, Dacotah Clayworks at Hebron. Linda Sailer / The Dickinson Press

HEBRON—As the owner of Dacotah Clayworks, Robin Reynolds is closing one chapter of her life to open another.

She plans to devote her full attention to pottery after retiring May 5 from her position as adjunct ceramics professor at Dickinson State University. To keep her pottery business growing, a new catenary arch kiln was built in the backyard and carpentry work done to the studio.

"I'm staying in Hebron where the kiln is anchored—my plan is to work here and maybe travel once in a while," she said.

The decision to retire wasn't an easy one—she taught ceramics for 14 years.

"My last day of teaching is also my 70th birthday—it was just a good fit, and I plan to devote more of my good years here," she said.

The reward of teaching was exposing the students to art, she said.

"I can't necessarily teach students to become more creative, but I hope to make them smarter. With ceramics, it's 'what would you do differently if you were to do it over'— 'what works and what doesn't work in this piece.'"

She tells her students the main job of an artist is to observe.

"By having that much student work pass through my consciousness, my power of observation has really increased. It's been a good run and I've really enjoyed it."

Early years

Reynolds grew up in Minot and graduated with a bachelor's degree from DSU in 1975. She moved out to Bellingham, Wash. where she had a pottery apprenticeship from 1979-82. After living there for 20 years, she moved to Hebron. There was a specific reason for purchasing the home/service station on Highway 10.

"I store my clay in the root cellar—it's perfect and it's one of the reasons I bought this place," she said.

Another reason was easy access to the indigenous clay mined north of Hebron.

"I harvest clay from ditches to form my glazes," she said, "And I shovel raw clay from the Hebron Brick Yard to make my pottery. It's run through a crusher that makes the clay look like kitty litter. That is what I shovel and bring home. It's a nice yellow color and it handles beautifully. It throws like a dream, but it has the characteristic of cracking. I pretty much solved that by putting sand in it."

Reynolds' signature pattern is the sunflower. She calls her work "dirt pots" after the style of Colonial American pottery—practical and deceptively simple wares.

She's eager to start using the new kiln. It was constructed with a high-temperature concrete—to as high as 3,000 degrees, and is heated with propane.

Reynolds also will devote time to the Old Red/Old Ten Scenic Byway—a concept she envisioned in 2008.

"It's one of the most scenic North Dakota byway programs requested at the North Dakota Department of Tourism," she said.

The byway links eight towns and the Schnell Recreation Area from Mandan to Dickinson. Referencing that people enjoy driving off the Interstate, she said, "My concept was, I'm two miles away from the Interstate on a really cool blacktop road—that's how I initiated it," she said.

And with more free time on her hands, Reynolds is developing a new outlet for her pottery, which is yet to be revealed. She also wants to do a more community outreach in Hebron.

For additional information, visit her website: www.ndclay.net.

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