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Blue Earth’s blue earth dishware

By Staff | Aug 4, 2013

Each year there seems to be one strange thing that catches my eye at the Faribault County Fair.

Something different and unusual. I usually find it tucked it away in the displays in the many buildings at the fair.

One year it was in the oddly named ‘Biggest Weed’ category in the Open Class competition. The winner was a giant marijuana plant. Once it was a gigantic cabbage. Another time a huge creation made out of Legos. Then there were the homemade wine entries and the folks who volunteered to judge them.

This year it was some plates that caught my eye.

But these were not ordinary Corelle dinner dishes. These claimed to have been made of Blue Earth’s blue earth.

I was intrigued.

And after some investigation, it turns out the claim is true.

The plates were made by Blue Earth resident Jeannette Hanson and her son Allan.

Here’s their story. There are two parts to it.

First, it seems that Jeannette’s sister in South Dakota had a ceramic business a number of years ago and Allan Hanson, his wife Sonja, and several friends purchased the business from Allan’s aunt. It included kilns and about 5,000 molds. Eventually they sold off the business but kept some of the material.

That is how a kiln comes to be in Jeannette’s basement.

Part two of the story happened a number of years ago when a large vein of the blue clay – for which the river and city of Blue Earth are named after – was uncovered.

I remember it well. It happened when crews dug a big hole at the water treatment plant while building a new structure there.

I took a picture of this huge vein of blue earth and it truly was blue.

And, I confess, I took a little of it. A jar’s worth.

It seems I wasn’t the only one. Only the Hanson’s took pails of the stuff.

Their idea was to try and make ceramic plates using the blue clay.

Interestingly enough, the clay doesn’t stay blue.

When it is first uncovered deep in the ground, it is a dazzling bright blue. But, it quickly fades to a blue-gray color, then eventually to just gray.

It also changes color when it gets baked in a kiln. It turns a kind of orange, the Hansons say.

Jeannette says it was quite a process to just get the clay to be usable to make ceramic dishes. They had to use a process that included a nylon sack to try and get all of the impurities out of the clay.

Their first attempts failed. But eventually they created blue earth plates.

Some of those on display were pure blue earth. Others had some different ceramic material added.

But still, they were definitely interesting.

I wanted one. So did a lot of people who saw the award winning display at the fair.

I think the Hanson’s could sell a lot of these Blue Earth blue earth plates and other items to both local citizens and visiting tourists.

There is a slight problem with that plan, however.

The Hanson’s don’t have any more blue clay. And, it is not very easy to come by.

It is not like you can just dig a hole any old place and find some.

So, this blue earth plate marketing idea might have to be put on hold for awhile.

Meanwhile, the Hanson’s have to decide if they want to take their purple ribbon plates to the next level the Minnesota State Fair.

Jeannette says they have thought about it, but she can’t. She is much too busy doing all of her volunteer work.

Besides, the folks at the State Fair might not appreciate that these plates came from special and hard to come by blue clay.

These interesting Blue Earth plates were not the only interesting thing to be found at the fair this year, of course.

This was a pretty fabulous Faribault County Fair, I thought.

Great food and lots of fun things to see and do with entertaining events in the grandstand, under the tent and all around the fairgrounds.

And, the weather was decent as well. Well, it did rain just a bit one day, and I also can’t remember ever having to grab a jacket to wear at the fair like I did on Saturday brrr it was chilly.

The carnival wasn’t the biggest one I have ever seen, but, hey, they showed up and for the most part the rides were in operation all week.

Overall, the fair gets an ‘A’ from me. How about you? You can vote how you rate the fair in our online poll this week. Check it out at the Register website.

And while you are there, check out the hundreds of photos from the fair on our CU Site.