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life Red Wing, 55066
Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

Organizers hope that attendees to the 37th annual Red Wing Collector's Society Convention will dig in and get their hands dirty.

This year's theme, "Diggin' Red Wing," references the pottery remnants some collectors -- known as dump diggers -- find by digging in the ground just behind the old Red Wing Pottery factory, where discards, rejects and broken items were often dumped.

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Keynote speakers at this year's event will be Red Wing pottery dump diggers Steve Showers, Dennis Nygaard, Paul Boudin and Connie Mathison. They will discuss their finds, experiences and challenges.

Because digging in Red Wing's mud for pottery shards may not exactly be deemed an enjoyable afternoon for many society members, convention organizers have found another way that will allow attendees to get dirt -- or rather, clay -- under their fingernails.

For just the second time, the society is giving members a chance to make a piece of pottery during the convention.

"We've had members on and off ask about why we can't have hands-on classes," Red Wing Collector's Society Executive Director Stacy Wegner said.

Last year, the society offered a limited hands-on wheel classes -- taught by pottery artist Richard Spiller -- at the Anderson Center. Only about a half-dozen people were able to take the class, Wegner said.

This year, the society is expanding those classes but offering them at Red Wing High School, where a majority of the convention's activities take place. At least twice as many people will be get a chance to run a pottery wheel. Three different hands-on sessions will be offered on both Thursday and Friday.

"We know a lot of members really do want to have that experience," Wegner said.

Joining Spiller in leading those sessions will be Aba Luostarinen, a student potter from Finland. Together, they will teach society members how to form pieces, how to apply decoration and how to scratch into the glaze, among other things.

"Having Aba join Richard this year to expand the hands-on pottery experience for our convention attendees is a ground-breaking addition to the convention," said Wegner. "We're excited to be a part of the exchange program."

Spiller will take the pieces that the convention attendees make and fire them in a kiln at the Anderson Center. Once finished, the pieces will be sent out to the members who made them.

"The idea is to give members the opportunity to work with some clay and learn some techniques from a potter in a class environment," Wegner said.

The annual convention kicks off today and goes through Saturday. Events throughout the week include pottery auctions and sales, chapter meetings, educational classes and Crockfest -- a celebration in Central Park Friday evening featuring live music and food vendors.

Wegner said convention registration is still open, and they are expecting between 1,000 and 1,500 members for the event.

"We have members coming from all over the country," Wegner said, adding that attendees come from as far away as California, Florida, Texas and New York.

Though the society's overall population declined slightly this year, Wegner said the convention's turnout has remained steady, with about 35 percent of all members attending.

For more information about the convention, or to become a society member, visit www.redwingcollectors.org. The convention is sponsored by Larry's Jugs, Maple City Pottery, Red Wing Pottery and Red Wing Stoneware Co.

If you go ...

Red Wing Collectors Society Convention

Where: Various locations throughout Red Wing, but primarily at the high school

When: Today through Saturday

More information: See insert in today's print edition, visit www.redwingcollectors.org or call 651-388-4004, 800-977-7927

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