In the winter of 2012, we heard through friends that the Alto Pass Elementary School building, home of Austin's Antiques, was on the market. We were told that it might be a perfect place to set up a studio and showroom, and that it was ideally located on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail between two popular vineyards so there would be plenty of customer traffic. After a lot of thought, discussion, 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, Illinois.
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. The Austins continued to upgrade the building and ran a very successful business here until very recently when they retired.
Alto Clay Works held its grand opening in the spring of 2015. ACW is the home of Steve Grimmer's studio, as well as a showroom for functional and decorative pottery, classrooms for adult and youth pottery classes, resident artist studios, and a gallery for short-term exhibitions. Summer of 2015 saw the construction of a large wood-burning kiln.
Shown are examples of our studios, classroom, and showroom spaces. There are three studios, a showroom, and a teaching classroom. Steve's studio is in the building next door, and the wood kiln is housed in the large pole barn on the lower property.