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Iowa clay and stoneware at Creston:Arts

Many small towns across Iowa, including Creston, had brick and stoneware plants in the late 1880s. The art gallery at the restored Creston Depot is hosting an exhibit featuring Iowa clay during the month of June.
Many small towns across Iowa, including Creston, had brick and stoneware plants in the late 1880s. The art gallery at the restored Creston Depot is hosting an exhibit featuring Iowa clay during the month of June.

Art and history come together for a showcase of Iowa clay and stoneware at the Creston:Arts Gallery.

Jeremy McLaughlin and Blake Fry-Schnormeier have combined their collections for this month’s exhibit and will present an informal discussion on the subject at noon Sunday. Pieces from other collectors will be on display, as well.

The exhibit, Iowa Clay: An industry that built our state, includes turn of the century brick pieces and stoneware from 1860s to 1900s that were made in Iowa with photographs and postcards telling their stories. Pieces made at the Creston brick and tile plant will also be featured.

McLaughlin became interested in Iowa clay because he lives in Fort Dodge, where there was a stoneware plant. At first, McLaughlin thought there had only been a few brick and stoneware makers in Iowa, but as he researched, he discovered they were much more common. So far, he has information on 250 towns across Iowa where some form of brick or stoneware was made.

McLaughlin said a large part of his enjoyment in collecting stoneware has been talking to people, discovering where pieces were made and educating others about the stoneware made in their own towns.

“It just seemed like info that was lost, and if someone didn’t do something, it was all going to be lost,” McLaughlin said.

Brick and clay were used in architecture and agriculture. Clay tile lines served to help move water away from structures and farm ground to prevent flooding. Stoneware was used for many everyday purposes. McLaughlin’s collection includes bowls, jugs and butter churns from the late 1800s.

McLaughlin and Fry-Schnormeier invite the public to bring pieces of Iowa brick and stoneware to the talk Sunday. They are interested seeing new pieces and hearing the stories behind them, as well as helping collectors identify the history of the pieces they own.

The Iowa Clay exhibit will be on display for the entire month of June. The Creston:Arts Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The public is invited to a First Friday reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

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