July 27, 2022

Clay Coyote (Season 4 Episode 29)

Morgan Baum is a second-generation potter at  Clay Coyote in Hutchinson, Minnesota. Clay Coyote specializes in pottery that you can cook with, including the flameware line of clay that can go from refrigerator to stove top and their popular line of pizza stones and grill baskets made of out pottery that can withstand high heat.

Join them and a host of other potters at this year’s Minnesota
Pottery Festival in Hutchinson Minnesota on July 30 and 31, 2022. Find more details here. 

Clay Coyote Podcast Transcript

Stephanie Hansen 0:12
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the makers in Minnesota podcast where we talk to cool people doing cool things. And I’m here with Morgan bomb today. And she is the owner of clay Coyote, which is one of a very few companies in around the country that are doing something called flame where you’re in Hutchinson, your second generation, this company was started by your mom and a business partner. Welcome to makers in Minnesota.

Morgan Baum 0:38
Thank you, Stephanie. I’m so glad to be here.

Stephanie Hansen 0:40
So I loved I read a little bit about you on your website, you’ve got a good story there. And I read a little bit about how your mom and her business partner were Potter’s. And then you as a 14 year old kid, kind of got involved. And one of my favorite stories was how you guys had like a self service shop.

Morgan Baum 1:00
Yeah, we still have people come in every single week and tell us that they came from the pump house, which was this tiny little hut on the property on the farm where they grew up, and you’d pick up a mug and you’d leave $10. And, and that’s really, how interesting and how homegrown we originally are.

Stephanie Hansen 1:21
I kind of love that. I wish we were all still like that today. And I know some people are, but it’s just the idea that you just kind of cash and carry. I guess there’s a lot of Amish farms that do that with eggs and that sort of thing.

Morgan Baum 1:33
That’s true. And sometimes people call me and order some pots over the phone and I don’t have a chance to get their credit card. And then they call back a day later. And they’re like, Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m like, Oh, don’t worry, I already put it in the mail. I knew you were good for it. So I think there’s still a level of trust in our small business that you might not find anywhere else.

Stephanie Hansen 1:52
Yeah, exactly. So you are second generation clay Coyote, and you guys are really known. And it makes sense. I’m gonna back up I’m a cook. And like flame ware and cookware and pottery, of course, they’ve been cooking and pottery for 1000s of years. Yet we sort of got away from that in the we’ll call it the modern cooking age. And it’s now sort of like a trendier thing to do but it’s also like based in our heritage. So you guys are uniquely situated to make flame where can you tell me about that in particular because I think that’s a really cool story.

Morgan Baum 2:30
Great well, we say that we make art you can cook with. And what we mean is there are many different types of pottery. Mostly the traditional pottery that people are familiar with is stoneware or porcelain or terracotta like you’d get at a garden center. But about 15 years ago, we started working with a chef to develop a specific type of clay and a specific type of glaze that could expand and contract with heat so it could go on the open stovetop or on a grill. And if you put that terracotta pot from the garden center or one of your plates that you bought in an art show, an open flame it would crack and under a minute, but our flame were mine can go from cold in the frigerator to a hot stove or a grill and it doesn’t flinch. It took a lot of work to get it to that point. We had some very fun science experiments we had some pots explode we had some pots crack we had glaze fall off and chip off. But about 12 years ago we we found the magic combination of clay body and glaze body that married perfectly to make the flame were line that we have there are two other powders in the country that make and sell flame were that are that are pretty big companies kind of like ours. One is on the east coast ones on the West Coast and here we are smack in the middle and but all of all of them make it a little bit different so you can tell whose pieces are whose because you know some of us have kind of a more traditional looks I focus on I want you to know what the saucepan so it looks like a saucepan and stuff and some of the other patterns might be something that’s a little more avant garde, but everybody takes their own twist on it. I personally I think our our cookware is it’s great for every day.

Stephanie Hansen 4:21
And you have like tons of pieces right so you talked about a sauce pan there’s a stir fry. There’s pourover situation for coffees, you like you have all different kinds of this. Literally that can go from like refrigerator to oven. I love that.

Morgan Baum 4:38
Yeah, I mean our number one pieces are the ones that are really unique. So no one else in the country makes the clay grow basket where it and it’s got holes in the little tiny handle. So it doesn’t take up too much room but it’s still you know, maneuverable. But then the other thing that we make that nobody else makes it domestically as a team that can go on the stovetop, and I’ve traveled to Morocco, I’ve taken cooking classes there. And, you know, to gene is designed to be made over an open flame or campfire. And there are a lot of genes in America that you can buy commercially. And they are made out of clay that can’t go on the stovetop, and so you’re not making the, you know, the recipe in the true traditional fashion if you’re cooking in your TV than the oven. And if you’re cooking, you’re touching and metal, I mean, it’s just, it’s not what you would get if you were going to Morocco. Now, not everybody can fly to Morocco, go to a souk, give it to Gene and carry it back on their lap on an airplane. Like that’s a very expensive piece of cookware. Here at the plate IoT, we make a flamer to gene. And so so many people who are looking for a true Moroccan experience domestically, they come to our website, it’s actually our number one seller by by revenue, the grill baskets the number one seller by piece, but they’re a little bit difference in price. So those two like to compete with each other.

Stephanie Hansen 6:09
I love it. And you guys sell like over 7000 pieces a year like you’re no small operation.

Morgan Baum 6:15
We we seem to get bigger every year when when I took over in 2016. We had two Potter’s and now we have eight. And we do make and sell around 7000 pieces a year. And we ship all over the United States and internationally to but mostly domestically. And our you know, some pieces are as small as a wine cup and some pieces are as big as a 22 cup console pot for French gasoline.

Stephanie Hansen 6:43
Yeah, I wanted to hear about that because someone commissioned your mom originally to make this giant Castle lay. And Castle lay is. I don’t know it’s a it’s a traditional French dish. But it’s also there’s so much crap that goes into it because it’s a variety of meats and a long cooking time. And there’s the beans and so having the right vessel is kind of important and 22 cups of Castle a that’s pretty big.

Morgan Baum 7:09
It is it’s the biggest pot we make. And yes, the chef from the Sonoma area. Paula Wolfert she wrote a cookbook cooking in the SouthWest of France. And she had a castle, a castle from France that she wanted to offer to her readers in America. And so we we did create this piece for her. And that was goodness, that was probably about 2006 or 2008. I can’t remember it was a while ago, and people still come to us every week to get the potluck hustle, right this year, we’re working with another chef. So the beggar who has a book coming out in September, called Castle Lake confessions. And she commissioned this special console for mussels, well, that’s a little bit lower, wider, it’s I would say. It’s, you know, it’s designed after a very traditional French piece, but we took a little bit of a modern take on it. And it’s in the black glaze. And, you know, people always want to know if they can get our Pollock vessel in any other color. And we’re like, No, it just comes in yellow. And and Sylvia’s were able to do in black, but there’s a lot of science and math in pottery. And so some people are like, Well, why can’t I get that piece and another color. And part of it is because we you know, not only do we throw and handle and say and and make everything but when we fire it, the Chem is kind of finicky. Sometimes if you put certain glazes in certain parts of account, there are hotspots and cool spots. And so some of our glaze colors and combinations only perform in one quadrant of the kiln. And if you think about a 22 cup console, with a 13 inch high rim that is going into a keel. We can only fit three of those in one of our kilns at any given time because of where it has to go in the fiery because the yellow only develops in certain spots, but also the size of the vessel is so big that it makes the film unsteady. And so the new one that we’re making for still the bigger is a little bit shorter, a little bit wider at the base. And since it’s black, it can go anywhere in the whole film. And so that midnight color that that glaze color we do is is a really versatile one. So it’s been you know, it’s always a trial and error and when somebody comes to us to have us make something, they think oh, you can just do this really quick and it never it’s never that way. Anytime we do something out of the ordinary out of our regular line of work. We’re looking at weeks of development, trial and error. And and honestly we get really used to making certain forms when we make something different it it it Definitely stretches our abilities. And it takes us away from making all those other things people want

Stephanie Hansen 10:05
to. Yeah, yeah. And it’s, that’s part of being a small business person, too, I think is sort of understanding what your niche is. And, you know, you want to push yourself creatively, but you also want to sell what sells, and there’s always this push to have like the latest, the newest, the coolest, but also knowing what’s gonna sell. I mean, sometimes that just takes time.

Morgan Baum 10:28
Yeah, there’s a really great story. From the pandemic, in 2020, we released a new product called the pizza stone out of flatware. And for years, people had been asking us to make them a flame were pizza stone, and I kept telling everybody one, it’s, it’s really hard to get that wide form, without having it be super wavy, because throwing a really consistent wide plate like that is is very technical. And then the second thing is that nobody’s gonna want to pay the price that we’re going to need to charge for a piece like this, right? The everybody wants one, but then they go to Pampered Chef, or Target and buy for 20 bucks. And yeah, they think, Oh, why isn’t yours, you know, that price? And so, for years, I said, I said, No, I said that we couldn’t make a pizza stone. But when we were all at the stay at home order, and everybody was at home, all of our patterns wanted to work together and see if we could make a pizza stone. And so it kind of was a little group challenge. And we all we had 10 different designs, and we all made them and took them home and tested them out. And and then we kind of had a winner. And so then we used to kind of our process to determine the price based on how much time it takes how much the materials cost, and, and then how much you know, it would cost to market it. And and so we came up with the pizza stone and it’s it’s become beloved people go crazy for it. And and so sometimes, you know, I tell people keep asking, you know, if there’s something that you think would be a really great addition to our line, where we hear you, we want to add it at some point, but it’s not like we can just sit down and make something and release it. I mean, there really is a lot of research and development in pottery to.

Stephanie Hansen 12:25
So Hutchinson is known for pottery. You have your part of the pottery festival and what’s the official name of it?

Morgan Baum 12:34
The Minnesota pottery festival,

Stephanie Hansen 12:36
okay, and you said over 4000 people come over the course of two days. Tell me more about that. And it started at your family’s place originally, right?

Morgan Baum 12:45
Yeah, so there are pottery festivals all over the United States. And a group of folks were at the Cambridge Wisconsin pottery festival and kind of talking a bunch of patterns. And they said we should do one of these in Minnesota. And so it was it was 11 years ago, because this is our 10th anniversary with one year after the pandemic. And, and we started out with 14 powders. And it was just sort of like two or three states, maybe four states. And now we’re up to 35 powders from 13 Different states, we set up in a park called West Masonic Park here in Hutchinson and it’s right on the riverfront. It’s gorgeous. And it’s two days, July 30, and 31st. And there’s there, it’s free. There’s demonstration. So we have throwing demonstrations, they have pleasing demonstrations, they’re firing demonstrations, in fact, this is one of the highlights is when you can see a pat fired right before your very eyes and a pattern from North Carolina and performs those demonstrations. And then we also have the kids tent where kids can make stuff and take it away with them. Right then in there. And food trucks and beer and wine. And yeah, and then like I said it’s free and about 4000 people come through and in those two days and the we do a survey of people who are there and the number one thing people say as they’re so impressed and awestruck by how many different ways there are to make pottery so you know where the clay coyote makes pots you can cook with. We don’t have a huge decorative line, but you know, two booths down from us at the pottery festival, you might see an extent a totally different type of clay, a totally different firing process carving jewelry, you know, I mean, you’ll see every aspect of clay and pottery and ceramics at this show. And it’s an you know you can come for one hour but there’s no way you’re going to see everything

Stephanie Hansen 14:47
Yeah, exactly. How much so you’re a potter yourself. How much time do you spend physically making pots versus running the business at this point? Because that’s a part that creatives have a hard time with to, the bigger they get, the more successful they get. Sometimes the less time they actually spend on the art,

Morgan Baum 15:08
I’ve spent almost no time in the studio. Like on the throwing side, none. And honestly, I always say the patterns that are on our team are 1000 times better than I am. But I will sit down and help with sometimes we’ll do classes or demos or tours, and I’ll throw during those for folks. But what I do spend a lot of time on is that r&d, so the research and design and then firing, because the firing process is such a, it’s kind of critical to the to the end product. So over firing under firing, firing for too long, all of that goes into whether or not the piece is going to come out how people expected to, and oftentimes when we fire every single week, and and the gas firing is without 1418 hours long, and you can’t leave the camera alone. So my mom and I often split the duties on the on the glaze firing. And part of that is you got to know how to tweak the firing as you go by adding more gas or adding more air. And, and so you’re constantly making sure that the parts are going to come out, right. Because most of the time those cans are about half full with special orders. So and when I see special orders, I mean, custom plate settings, you know, or we were out of all the blue bread bakers. So there’s six blue bread bakers waiting to get shipped off. And so the last thing I want to do is get to the end of the firing, which after you finish firing, you have to wait two days to look at the parts which is takes forever. And the last thing you want to do is get to those you know two days later and find out I have to tell a bunch of people that they gotta wait another week or more for their pieces.

Stephanie Hansen 17:01
Yeah, it’s it’s interesting to think about it like an oven. But of course it is. You know, like when you cook bake cookies, or you get to know your oven at home, you know, there’s certain things that certain hotspots, you have certain things that work better than others. I never really thought about that in the context of pottery, but that’s pretty cool. What is when you think about trends and pottery that you’re interested in? Is there anything that comes to mind?

Morgan Baum 17:26
You know, this, this cooking with clay trend has been slowly ramping up, like he talked about at the beginning of the podcast. You know, I, I guess there’s there’s two thoughts, which is, yes, people are moving away from kind of mass produced cookware to a more handcrafted traditional piece vessel that they could make stuff. And that is more traditional. Also, a lot of folks want, you know, want to support small businesses. So when they find out that they can get their kitchenware from a little shop, and, you know, a toddler’s that, you know, they get really excited that they they can have these pieces in their lives. But another area that’s gotten really interesting for me is the the nickel allergy community in cooking. So so many people have nickel sensitivities where their skin turns green if they were kind of cheap jewelry. Yep. And the same thing is happening if they cook in cheap cookware, a lot of metal pots, especially the really inexpensive ones that we all start out with when we go to college, right? A lot of those are made with nickel. And so you’re boiling your your pasta in a pot full of nickel, and then you’re putting that into your body. And then you’re wondering why you have you know, indigestion after you eat everything. And so more and more people are turning to nickel free cookware. And I’ve seen it in a commercially I’ve seen a bunch of marketing around nickel free copper people, but so many of the pieces of cookware that are made kind of mass produced are have nickel in them. And so we have a huge audience of people who come to us for a nickel free. That’s interesting. Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve noticed that that has changed over the last five years. Yeah,

Stephanie Hansen 19:13
and that makes sense. You know, the more toxins and allergens that are in our, our environments, the more we’re being triggered by different things, right. So they’re seeing more people that are having more allergic reactions to things. Well, all that’s pretty cool. And you can learn more about all the Minnesota pottery at the Minnesota pottery festival. I sent it right this time he okay, it’s going to be July 30 and 31st. And it is in Hutchinson and I’ll put a link in the show notes so if anybody wants to attend they can visit. Thanks for visiting with me today. It was really fun to get to know you and to hear more about your cookware. I may have to visit your website after we get off the podcast and see what I can see.

Morgan Baum 19:56
Well thank you again for having me. And anytime you want to Come visit us in Hutchinson at Clay County. We would love to see you and all of your listeners. And we do free tours every day Tuesday through Saturday.

Stephanie Hansen 20:08
I love it. All right. Thanks, Morgan. I appreciate you being with me. Thank you. Okay, bye bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai