In 2012, we heard through friends that the Alto Pass Grade School building, home of Austin's Antiques, was on the market. It was the perfect place to set up a studio and showroom, and is ideally located on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail between two popular vineyards with plenty of customer traffic. After much dreaming and planning, we decided to make the move back to our roots in southern Illinois. We sold our house in Manitoba, packed up home and studio, and drove 1100 miles south to the beautiful village of Alto Pass.
Our main building was built in 1928, and served as the elementary school for the village and surrounding area until closing in 1971. In 1985, it was sold by the village to Jan and Gary Austin, who lovingly restored it for their home and fine antique business.
Alto Clay Works is now the home of Steve Grimmer's studio, a showroom for handmade functional pottery, a classroom for adult and youth pottery classes, and resident artist studios. In 2015, Steve completed construction of a large, two-chamber wood burning kiln which is fired in November, January, and April.