A bit outside of town, the garage of Russ and Jackie Leckband is probably best on an acreage, not suburban lot.
The Leckbands have been creating stoneware pottery in their garage since 1991 when they opened New Harmony Pottery.
Each day, Russ Leckband slices off bits of clay, kept moist in burlap and plastic, and throws it onto the center of his potter’s wheel. With skilled hands, he coerces the clay into useful and artful shapes — crocks, plates, mugs, pitchers — even the occasional grail, used in many area churches to serve Holy Communion.
Leckbands have been creating stoneware objects since the mid 1970s when Russ was the head potter at Living History Farms and Jackie, in charge of textiles, would help decorate the pots prior to firing.
Firings at Living History Farms were weekend events. A massive brick kiln would be loaded to the brim with greenwear, or unfired pots. A small fire would be started in an access to the sealed kiln on Friday afternoon. The fire would be fed and tended into Sunday morning, until the temperature inside reached temperatures up to 2,500 degrees. Forty-eight-hour vigils were held, with music, food and fellowship. After several days of cooling, the bricks would be removed, revealing a load of beautiful, unique pieces of stoneware, each with its own personality.
Today, most firing is done with an electric kiln in the Leckband garage, though two wood kilns stands at the ready. Nearby is a new small kiln and the original large one they’ve used for 20 years.
“We’ll do a wood firing once or twice a year; it’s not often enough,” says Russ Leckband. “It’s a major commitment of time and we need a lot of wood before we can fire with it. Wood firings can be a magical adventure. We finished our new small kiln last spring, and we were just blown away when we opened it.”
The Leckbands live on 10 acres just west of Adel and built their garage with pottery in mind.
“When I left the Farm, I started digging the footings right away,” Russ says. “I called a concrete guy and asked how soon he could come out and pour my slab. He was out the next week.”
While the main garage remains the same, the need for space has grown.
“A potter always needs space,” Russ says. “We now have about three sheds, two for the kilns and one for storage. You have to have space to work, space to hold the pots about to be fired and space for the pots once they’re fired.”
Their pots have become mainstays at the Iowa State Fair and the Covered Bridge Festival in Winterset. One of their largest projects of the year, however, is the age-group awards for runners at the Living History Farms Race in November, which they’ve created for more than 30 years.Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”