Joe Messer started production in the fall of 1952 in Bowman, North Dakota. He
was given the use of half of his father in law's (Harry Olson) chicken coop. Joe
built the two kilns that were needed for production. A Ford transmission and an
electric motor became a potters wheel, a washing machine was use to mix the
casting clay, and from odds and ends he fashioned other tools that were needed.
In addition, Joe made his own molds. Eunice, Joe’s wife cast the porcelain,
trimmed the pieces and prepared them for firing along with other jobs around the
Imported clays from Pennsylvania were used for porcelain production. These
were fired at 2500 degrees F. to produce a porcelain finish. Among the porcelain
items made were figurines, salt & pepper sets, vases, ashtrays, wall
plaques/book ends, and planters. Joe used native clay from the Bowman area for
his wheel-thrown items. These came out as stoneware and included planters,
vases, pots, sugar & creamers, teapots, mugs, and bowls.
Needing more working space, the Messers took over the other half of the
chicken coop in the early summer of 1953. Again the need for more space arose
and in the summer of 1954 the business moved to a garage on highway 12 in
Bowman, North Dakota. They called it "The Pot Shop." In 1956, after five years,
the Messers closed the business and Joe accepted a position with Jostens in
Owatonna, Minnesota. There he continued his art work through sculptures,
painting, and teaching.
The following figurines were made: Large 8" bull, antelope buck & doe, small
Hereford, Angus and Holstein family (bull, cow, & calf), turtle, seal, rabbit,
coyote, Mallard duck 7", jackalope, and prairie dog.
The following salt & pepper sets were made: Hereford, Angus, & Holstein
calves, turtles, spooks, seals, prairie dogs, rabbits, chef with hat, Devils
Tower, Custer Monument, South Dakota Petrified Wood Park, gas pumps, oil
derricks, the Stone Electric & Heating Furnace Co. and grain elevators. This is
only a partial listing.
In addition to these, a wall plaque/bookend of a man tipping his cowboy hat
was made for Dickinson, North Dakota and used for a business promotion. Each one
had a different short phrase on it that started out with "Dick sez."
The items are marked with "Messer" engraved on the bottom, and sometimes the
year; "Messer Bowman, N. Dak." with black lettering on the bottom; silver seal
attached with "Ceramics by Messer Bowman, No. Dak." and also a paper label with
"THE POT SHOP Messer Ceramics Bowman, N. Dak."
For more information on Ceramics by Messer,