Our first stop was a place she's been telling me about for eons: Kickapoo Pottery. Located in Oakwood, IL, it's open only one weekend a month or by appointment, and we finally aligned our schedules to visit the place. It was every bit as wonderful as she'd been telling me.
If you're not sure you're on the right road, this tree will lead you in.
We were welcomed in by the owner and potter, Don Archer.
His store is in a large shed, and is split into a display area on one side, with another room that served as both a workshop and more store. He let us browse while he continued with his work.
His wheel sits in the back of his workspace, while the kiln is tucked away in the back of the shed. As he moved about his shop, dipping bowls into glaze, he shared with us what he was doing, and how his work was produced.
There are cups, pitchers, wine coasters, trivets, vases, bread bakers, and bowls of every size and shape. I wanted all of it. In the end, I bought myself a chicken baker, and he shared with us the story of "The Evolution of the Chicken Baker." The baker started out much like a chip & dip bowl, like this:
To bake a chicken, you put your desired marinade and spices into the middle, prop your chicken over the inside ring (a la beer-can chicken style), and bake.
A customer approached him, however, and told him that cleanup was a hassle, and she would appreciate a spout on the outer rim, to dispose of broth and juices. He adjusted the design, only to have her return and tell him that the inside ring also needed a spout, and oh, while he was at it, put some handle on that thing!
Voila! The Don Archer, Kickapoo Pottery Chicken Baker was perfected!
A November Bonus: The Oakwood area is having a "Little Country Tour" next weekend, and Don's studio will be open November 9 & 10 from 9 to 5. He is also open December 7 & 8 from 9 to 5, so avoid the malls and run on out there to pick up a few great Christmas gifts!
If you can't make it before the new year, I hope that you keep checking his schedule, at www.kickapoopottery.com. His shop located just outside of his own house, is a treasure, and watching him create these beautiful masterpieces is awe-inspiring. The entire visit is just a real treat!
Oh, and that chicken baker rocks!