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Feats of Clay offers new tour at Gladding McBean

articles_040109d.jpgFeats of Clay XXII, a celebration of the history of Lincoln's Gladding, McBean Pottery and a major North American sculpture competition and exhibition, will add a new tour to its month-long schedule of company tours beginning April 28.

For the first time, the tour will lead guests to unexplored areas of the pottery.  According to Claudia Renati, executive director of Lincoln Arts, this new tour will provide a different aspect of the factory. “Many of our guests have done our basic tour.” Says Renati, “so we organized an alternate tour to take visitors to places that have never been open to the general public in our historic factory while still giving them the chance to see the 100-year old kilns, a highlight of all our tours.”

Tour B, as Renati named the new venture, will lead visitors to the fitting shed where finished products and restored architectural pieces are packed and shipped.  This area will have an exhibit of the drafting process showing how a fragment is measured and scaled so restoration can take place.  The second-floor library, part of the new tour, shows examples of all glazes used in Gladding McBean creations through the years.  The area is loaded with artifacts that Renati guarantees will intrigue visitors.

Tour A, the original tour, takes visitors to areas where architectural restoration is performed.  Guests will visit the modeling area to observe the various steps in restoration. The tour will also visit the glazing and kiln areas to gain insight on the total process of restoration. Both tours will include a close-up look at the annual Feats of Clay International Art Exhibition.

The only time the tours are held is during the running of Feats of Clay. Reservations are required for tours and can be made by calling the Lincoln Arts Council, organizers of Feats of Clay, at (916) 645-9713. Entry fee is $12.  Visitors must be age ten or older.  Visitors should wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes as tours last about 90 minutes and require much walking.

Feats of Clay runs April 28 to May 31.  Visitors will be escorted by trained docents.  Tours run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, Tuesday through Sunday. The scheduled tours start every 30 minutes.

In the late 1800s, Gladding McBean became a leader in producing architectural terra cotta facades for some of the most significant historical landmarks in the world.  While the company’s main source of income today is manufacturing of clay sewer pipes, a staff of experts handles restoration projects. They replace worn out or damaged artifacts of terra cotta pieces that were originally created by Gladding McBean craftsmen.

The exhibit of some 75 sculptures will be drawn from more than a thousand entries in the annual competition of artists from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Winners and other entries will be in creative displays, some in a massive, obsolete 35-foot-wide, 100-year-old kiln.  The competition draws entries from recognized artists from all over North America.

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.

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. Visitors can get updated information on Feats of Clay online at or by phoning (800) 773-0522.

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