Duluth artist sculpts passion into career

Pieces of broken pottery lay in a plastic bin in Kraemer’s studio. Photo by Ava Heinrich. Just off Hammond Avenue in Superior, the old city hall building stands tall against a crisp blue sky. Inside there are many shops including Duluth Pottery where a woman sits at her studio table surrounded by her handmade pottery.

With big open windows on a sunny day, Karin Kraemer’s studio gives off a homey vibe. This is good because her studio is practically her home as she spends most of her time there.

The colorful entrance of Duluth pottery is warm and inviting. Located in the old City Hall in Superior, Duluth Pottery is home to Karin’s studio as well as her shop.

“It’s full-time being an artist,” she said.

On the other side of the room is the store, where you can see Kraemer’s studio and all of her work-in-progress pieces. Lined up on shelves against the walls, her finished products sit on display for all to see. There are a vast variety of colors and patterns on every pottery piece.

Like her art pieces, Karin is very vivacious. She’s energetic and talks passionately about her work, yet her demeanor is very down-to-earth.

Kraemer first got into pottery when she was in school. She went to college at St. Cloud State and originally intended to major in biology. While there, she began to miss art.

“I took one clay class and I got sucked in,” she said. This led to her BFA in glass and art.

After graduation, Kraemer and her husband moved around. She has lived in Colorado, West Virginia and British Colombia.

“The beauty of being a studio artist is you can work wherever,” she said.

However, when her husband got a job offer back in the Midwest, they jumped on the opportunity. They were excited to live in Duluth.

Since moving back to Minnesota, Kraemer has been involved in the art community. She was one of the founders of the Superior Council for the Arts where she was the first director.

Kraemer is currently focusing more on her art and business, but still plays a role for the Superior Council for the Arts when needed.

“I would like to build my business so I can have people working,” she said.

Currently, Kraemer has an apprentice who works at her studio. She talks fondly of the experience and says that she’s happy to have one because she learned a lot from her apprenticeships.

Samantha Anderson, her apprentice, recently graduated from UMD. Anderson shares the same love for pottery that Kraemer does.

Anderson wanted to work with a professional artist like Kraemer because she wanted to know what it would take to run a business doing something she enjoys.

“Karin was actually the first person who taught me how to throw clay on a wheel,” Anderson said.

Although Anderson only works about 15 hours a week at the studio, she is learning a lot.

Anderson is happy to work as Kraemer’s apprentice. “Her personality and character are what keeps me motivated to become a professional. Karin is very motivated and passionate about art. She’s definitely a positive influence.”

As for her favorite pieces of art, Kraemer points to her work with carrots on it.

“I’ve been digging the carrots lately,” she said, picking up a coffee mug with a chicken painted on it. “Although everyone loves the chicken cup.”

Baked bowls sit on the shelf in Kraemer’s studio. Photo by Ava Heinrich.

Kraemer is happy knowing that three colleges in the area – Lake Superior College, the University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of Wisconsin Superior – teach clay. 

As for now, Kraemer is happy just supporting her business and enjoying her art. “You can be a good business person and be true to your art,” she said.

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