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One-of-a-kind pottery

When customers pull into the driveway bending around the 100-year-old home that now houses Dunton Locks Pottery, they can most likely expect to be greeted with a warm smile and beckoning wave from a woman sporting clay-covered jeans and a rolled up longsleeved shirt.

Mary Laabs, an artist nestled in the woods near Lake Sallie, knows that when her inhouse buzzer goes off, someone has pulled up to the house and is most likely in the mood to browse through some pottery.

For the past 15 years Laabs' has spent much of her time crouched next to a potter's wheel, watching her hands give life to all kinds of unique clay formations.

But for someone who has caught the attention of some the nation's top art experts, Laabs modestly addresses her trade as nothing more than a relaxing hobby.

"I'm lucky that I enjoy my work," Laabs chuckled as she stepped inside the house and into her basement workshop, which houses three separate workstations meant to shape, dry and store pottery. "Life is good."

Laabs' process of creating her pottery is fairly informal. She explained that most of her inspiration is drawn the moment she begins free handing clay patterns with her fingers.

"I don't have anything planned when I start," Laabs said.

Laabs also took an unconventional approach to learning the necessary techniques behind pottery. She said that one day, she just decided to do it.

"I went out, bought a wheel, and taught myself how to make pottery," Laabs said.

It was a simple approach to a master craft. Laabs soon realized that making pottery was something she wanted to do for years to come.

The basement workshop may be where the real pottery magic happens, but Laabs said she moves all of her finished products into an upstairs show room, which overlooks a scenic line of manmade ponds outside the front of the house.

As Laabs exited the downstairs workshop and made her way back up to the main show room, she pointed around at a number of her favorite pieces, which are neatly displayed on shelves lining three walls. She explained that she is different from other artists because each of her creations is different than the next. None of Laabs' pottery comes in a mass produced set.

"It's all one of a kind," the potter said.

Laabs said that she has lived in the Detroit Lakes area for 30 years, and it was only three years ago when she and her husband, Brad, purchased their 3-acre property.

Brad works as a fishing guide around the Detroit Lakes area.

Laabs said she and her husband feel that the natural beauty in the area surrounding their home correlates perfectly with the back woods and lake country theme embedded in Dunton Locks Pottery.

It is easy to see that it is not all business with Laabs. Her work often reminds her of her husband and two sons. So naturally, her inhouse tours often lead to pleasant conversation.

In addition to working with pottery, Laabs also dabbles in caricatures and painting. She is often eager to give an impromptu tour of all her other artwork, which is neatly displayed throughout the rest of the house.

Laabs said she sometimes gives pottery lessons, but only for small groups.

"I'll take a couple people at a time," Laabs said.

It is clear to see that the lakes area woman has a passion for what she does. One could easily say that she is a jack of many artistic trades.