Gladding McBean-the 133-year-old maker of clay products in Lincoln, Calif.-will open its fabled grounds and beehive-shaped kilns for thousands of visitors during the running of Feats of Clay, April 30 to May 25. Visitors will walk through the facility via escorted tours which run from 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday through Sunday. Tours start every 20 minutes.
Highlight of this 21st staging of Feats of Clay is the exhibit of some 75 sculptures that will be drawn from the 1,000-plus entries in the annual competition of artists from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Top winners along with other entries will be in creative displays, some in a massive obsolete 35-foot wide kiln. The competition draws entries from recognized, skilled artists from all over North America.
Gladding McBean thrives today by manufacturing clay sewer pipes, but also does special assignments for demanding architects. They replace worn out or damaged artifacts of terra cotta pieces they originally created for buildings throughout the world. They are one of only three major terra cotta companies in the country, and the only one west of the Mississippi.
Tours of the factory are the main attraction of the Feats of Clay program. The company is open for tours only during the running of Feats of Clay.
When a major lode of terra cotta was discovered in Lincoln in 1875, the site for
Gladding McBean was inevitable. The special clay remains in abundance in the area, enough for the company to keep production going for several more decades.
Touring visitors will learn about the special characteristics of Lincoln clay. They will look back in history to see how Gladding McBean skilled artisans sculpted enormous pieces of art for architectural facades. They will also become aware of the company’s basic production of ground pipe, roof tiles and garden pottery. They will stroll by the 22 massive beehive kilns and visit the historic molding room.
Reservations are required for tours and can be made by calling the Lincoln Arts Council, organizers of Feats of Clay, at (916) 645-9713. Entree fee is $10. Visitors must be age ten or older. Visitors should wear comfortable shoes as tours last about 90 minutes and require much walking.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Lincoln Arts and Culture Foundation, supporting local cultural programs, including a summer concert series, after-school art classes, and school arts programs.
Lincoln is at the northeast corner of Placer Valley, a few miles north of Sacramento. Placer Valley is also home for the cities of Roseville and Rocklin, plus the rural towns of Granite Bay, Loomis, Newcastle and Penryn.
Visitors can get updated information on Feats of Clay online at www.placertourism.com or by phoning (800) 773-0522.
*Placer Valley Tourism