Find This Off-The-Beaten-Path Attraction!
Off the beaten path in Rapid City you can discover some pretty unbelievable attractions. One I recently visited for the first time ever (shame on me!) was Sioux Pottery. This spectacular shop is tucked away on the east side of Rapid City and looks like nothing more than your typical store front. And this my friends is the perfect example of why our parents taught us not to judge a book by its cover.
The entrance of Sioux Pottery goes straight into the gift shop. Here you can shop rows and rows of beautifully decorated Native American pottery. However, I don’t recommend starting your experience here. Once you have witnessed behind the scenes at Sioux Pottery, come back to the Gift Shop. You will browse this selection with a whole new level of appreciation.
Get ready to be blown away. Everything you briefly saw in the Sioux Pottery Gift Shop was made in this building, by hand, by Native American Sioux Indian Artists. You can tour the whole building and personally witness every part of the process! I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the coolest tours I have ever been on, and maybe it’s because it’s so unexpected. What appeared to be just a store front in reality is a building that seems to go on forever.
We started our tour in the back room where the clay is poured and shaped in molds. During our visit we were able to watch the worker take apart the molds and remove each piece, shaving off the seams and excess clay at the top. The red clay they use to create these pieces is also local, dug up in a town outside of Rapid City called Piedmont. Some pieces, however, are made out of a white clay that is sourced from Kentucky. Once these pieces have been removed from the molds and cleaned off, they are set out to dry before moving on to the next step of the process.
Through the door on the right is where the pottery is sanded down for a flawless and smooth surface. This again is done by hand. In this room is also where the insides are coated and the outsides are wiped down in preparation to be painted. As we made our way around the building, I was blown away by the amount of pottery being created here. In each room you’re surrounded by walls of pottery in different stages of the process. It’s astonishing.
The next step is for the pottery to be painted and then carved. To watch that you’ll head back to the room located directly behind the gift shop. At the first table you’ll be able to witness pieces being spun and transformed with various bright and beautiful colors. Carving takes place at the next table. You can watch as the artist traces grid lines to each piece and then carves a variety of Sioux symbols that express the spirit and culture of the Lakota American people. You can see the meaning behind each symbol used on their website!
After each piece is carved, they are either ready to be fired or they have more artwork hand-painted onto them by another artist. Finished pieces are placed onto a cart and wheeled into a brick oven that heats up to about 2,000 degrees. It takes about seven hours for the pottery to be fired to completion. Once you’ve watched how it’s all created head back to the Gift Shop, and when you browse the collection you can truly appreciate the work these artists put into every single piece on display. Sioux Pottery has been creating Lakota collectables by hand since 1958. They also create stunning specialty items like trophies for sporting events such as the Lakota National Invitation (a basketball tournament held in Rapid City every year) or the Crazy Horse Memorial Marathon Trophy. Watch the video below and get a little taste of what visiting Sioux Pottery is like, but to genuinely appreciate what happens here you’ll need to see it for yourself.