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Bruning Pottery's 35 Year Anniversary 15 May 2018

A brief history of Bruning Pottery


In the spring of 1983 Judy and I approached Jim Lunz at Seattle Pottery and asked if he knew of any studio space available.  He said "as a matter of fact"... and took us out-back to a Quonset hut building he was only partially using (it is no longer there), and rented it to us.  The down side was constant heavy truck and train traffic on Horton street... and dust from a working installation such as SPS.  Those down side items were off-set by the fact we could get supplies at a moments notice, and delivered on a fork lift to our back door!

Judy sold wholesale pots to florists and nurseries, around the area, from the trunk of our car, and we set up retail pottery booths at street fairs nearly every weekend... in addition to having a spot at Pike Place market at least 3 days a week.  We promoted by getting lots of pots out there and at a price they would sell at.

After a few years we put a truck on the road with a sales person to take orders and offered free delivery to entice the retailer to purchase from us. (gas prices have certainly changed!)  And Judy became the office person and administrator.  I was running the production end of the business and developing new glazes and looks.

A number of years went by (about 10) with increasing sales and employees and we were out-growing our welcome in the building behind Seattle Pottery Supply and moved our business to 6th Ave S.  That location was larger (and much more expensive) and we had to grow again just to keep up with it. We had numerous employees and 2 trucks on the road full time traveling as far away as Montana and Idaho to service accounts.  You may remember the desk top fountain phase... It was a great time for Bruning Pottery where we made many fountains and supplied many companies with fountain components.

Seattle, being a major import sea-terminal for all eastern countries, soon became host to huge influxes of pottery of all kinds from many overseas countries, and Seattle was flooded with very good and cheaply priced pots. Those pots were impossible to compete with (price wise) and we started looking for niches that were not being filled, by those overseas imports.  Hand made and slab-made sinks come to mind as a market we have been successful in for some years now, as well as starting a pottery school and teaching our skills to others.

After about 12 years in the 6th Ave location that building owner decided to sell due to his advancing age and we were faced with having to move a pottery factory!  Just finding a location we could now afford, was a major challenge, and then the prep work, and finally the physical move, altogether took nearly a year.  It was a challenging time to be sure.

So it was in 2006 we moved to Snohomish Historic District on Avenue "D"... Which is a heavily traveled street.  We designed a studio that flows nicely from materials in the front door, through throwing, bisque firing, glazing, and high firing, shipping area... all in a nice smooth line... and a retail show room.  The layout of the rest of the building fell in place nicely also... including an apartment upstairs!  We are home, and this time a landlord can't sell it out from under us. Judy and I have lived here since March 2006 and are still in the midst of remodeling (that could go on for years we realized) and are glad to be here.  The people of Snohomish have welcomed us warmly. 

 (see below for photos of the showroom remodel)

Soon after arriving we found that Snohomish and surrounding area residents were hungry for creative opportunities and have signed up for pottery classes consistently for many years.  There is an average of 60 students enrolling in 7 sessions throughout the calendar year.  Several of those people are now selling their work successfully and have a side business... and are good potters and we are proud of them.

You are invited to celebrate with us being in business for these many years in the month of May. An Open-House will include a kiln opening, refreshments, and tours including demonstrations... and possibly even a hands on clay experience of your own.

Larry and Judy Bruning 

30 Year Series: On Friday, May 3rd at 5pm, we kicked off our 30 year Celebration at Bruning Pottery  unveiled our 100 numbered and signed Logo Mugs. Each mug handcrafted by Larry and Judy. (There are 100 out there from our 20th year and our 25th. as well)    (These are now all gone)



Simon Leach workshop

 ...came along in a timely fashion. His arrival during our anniversary month was an accident, but it was all part of the celebration and a lesson in how sometimes things flow together well, with no forethought. 

Simon, by the way, is the Grandson of Barnard Leach, who is credited, along with Shoji Hamada, with bringing the idea of individual art potteries to the United States (and England).  Potter's urban legend has it that they visited each other often, and to help finance the trips from England to Japan, and back, would stop by Schools and/or Universities, along the way, and do work shops in throwing pots on the wheel and teach the rich Oriental history of pottery and famed Japanese esthetic... Prior to this time all that was happening in the US and England were ceramic factories... where no one person was responsible for the whole production cycle.  In a factory situation many people did their "specialty" on the item and their combined efforts added up to a finished product that no one person could be credited with... because he or she only did a fraction of the production.  There were literally no "one person" potteries to be found. 

After a few years of these workshops and demonstrations, making pots started to be offered in Fine Art programs in various universities... and then especially in the early 60's the idea of actually making things with your own hands took hold firmly, and many potters started exploring clay, glazes and firing techniques as an individual expression of creativity.  Now, if I might speculate, there are far more Mom and Pop ART Potteries than there are major Pottery factories in existence today.  Make no mistake there are large concerns in the U.S. still, but fewer, and many thousands "one person" studios, making all manner of ceramic products for esthetics as well as function.

Simon is a very good production potter and it was an honor having him in our studio continuing his family tradition, and we thank him for providing a rich learning experience for the Northwest potters who attended.



The Bruning Pottery show room is rebuilt in September, October, November, and part of December 2012...

Click the thumbnails for a large version of the photos below

Showroom Remodel Fall of 2012

Demolition of the old
Showroom stated with
wall coverings...
about 7 layers were

All hands removing

Major pieces of
old ceilings came
down... it was full
of coal soot from
years and years of
heating with coal

Demolition experts did
the heavy stuff.

A major dumpster was filled
with old building materials.

Under about 5 layers we found this
calendar from 1933... and a few other
 items as well. and

One of those items was a large bottle of Coors
 Beer, still capped, but with the label nearly
 gone... and a message from the installer of the paneling naming himself and when he did the installation
 (January 22, 1937!
 Pretty cool to have that connection with the past
and be a part of the time stream of this building.

This is the 1920s to 40s look
 when the building was
a freight transfer business.
(Photo thanks to the
grandson of
this business owner!)

Structural support
installed, made of
wood beams, intended to be left exposed.

Fully expert framers fixing
structural issues.

New Beams take
 part of the weight

Ceilings are re-enforced with beams.

Under the old was
surprisingly, good existing
timbers, from earlier
remodels of the upstairs.

Concrete was poured
 to tie the old foundation
 to the slab floor that
was under the old
wood flooring.

Wheel barrows!
Concrete brigade

Pouring foundation

The water line also enters
the building in this corner.

New windows are
framed in.

New windows in
 the front wall
 as well.

Insulation is put  in the old wall cavities.

and another layer
on the inside surface

Painting done after masking
everything and mud and taping

Removing masking

We managed to save
the beautiful old floor.

New floor boards
are patched in expertly

Floor sanding

Floor finishing

Move in of racks
and show pots

Gallery items first

Some recent show
worthy pots
Please come and visit.    



 Our Building's Progress since move in

We think this is an early photo of the Ave D building, It was a livery and built in the late 1800s.

See the sliding barn door...It was not at all weather tight that first winter!  Snow came in under it more than once. (2006)

Remodeling starts with the North wall with timbers that had rotted off due to leaking over the years... it needed new support.

The original siding was reluctantly covered with more useful siding.

Siding going up.

It sure changed the looks of the building!

And the old drafty rolling doors were replaced with a garage door type with glass for needed light.

Thanks to local architect for
the warm alcove idea.

Installing the panels in yellows and oranges.

New showroom entry door being installed.

Front siding going on in the traditional shiplap style to conform with the Historic District plans to keep downtown Snohomish as authentic as possible in the face of modern looks.

The recessed area with glowing orange color tiles that is very nice at night with lights.

Here is the display case installed...
 November 2009

As of 2011/12

(The address of our building is... 115 Avenue D, Snohomish, Washington 98290)

Phone 360-568-2614


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1997 - 2018  Larry Bruning.  All rights reserved.  All photographs are the property of Larry Bruning and Bruning Pottery Inc.  No duplication and or distribution of any written material,  photograph, or graphic  is permitted without written permission.   Educational institutions are invited to submit requests.

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