Kimball artist plans to sell work in daughter’s new store
KIMBALL — Deb Burckhard has been making horsehair pottery for 20 years, has done it full time for about 10 and has lived in Kimball for the past six. Although her work is sold in stores across the Midwest, it's only now that she'll have a personal stake in a store itself.
Burckhard's pottery will be sold in a store run by her daughter, Aspen Burckhard, who sourced the clothing, jewelry and other items that will be for sale and decorated the store's interior largely with items she found at rummage sales and updated. The store, called Hello Beautiful, will be open for business on Kimball's Main Street at some point within the next few weeks, although a specific date has not been set.
"I kind of pushed her to open the store with me because I have a lot of locals that ask about what she does and her work and want to see it here in town," Aspen said.
Burckhard, originally from Chamberlain, said she's always been artistic, and she first got into horsehair pottery — a technique that involves applying horsehair to pottery while it's hot, burning it into intricate designs — through experimentation. At first, she showed her work exclusively at craft shows.
"It seemed like after a while, almost every craft show, somebody would come along with a store that wanted to carry it," she said. "So it just went from there, and now I do maybe five or six shows a year, and the rest is just wholesale."
From start to finish, all of Burckhard's pottery is made in her home. She has eight kilns, each of which she uses for different jobs, in her garage, where she does all of her clay work, and all the details and finishing touches are done in her basement.
Her pieces can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 10 hours to complete. Many are custom-made for people who send her hair from their own horses.
"Then, they generally just think of me, and when they trim them up, they send me the hair," she said. "I have some that actually have me keep their horse hair on file so they can order more pieces later."
Prior to officially starting her career in the arts, Burckhard said she had done "a little bit of everything," from running a daycare to working for the parks and recreation department in Rapid City, where she lived for 20 years. During her previous careers, Burckhard always tried to work around her five children, all but one of whom are now adults.
Now, with her pottery carried in more than 200 stores, Burckhard operates an entire business, called Turning Leaf Design. The name came about 20 years ago, when she was having a bad day and decided it was time to turn a new leaf.
When Burckhard was just starting out, she only used white clay. Since then, her pottery has become much more elaborate, featuring varied color processes and detailed handmade embellishments, many of which she creates from materials found in nature.
"Moving to Kimball really helped my art because I didn't have Hobby Lobby and Michaels right there," Burckhard said. "It made me reach a little further and become creative and experiment with what I can find and where I can take it."
Rather than purchasing materials for embellishments at craft stores, Burckhard now makes most of the elements herself. These can include layers of handmade paper, sticks from her backyard made into points with a pencil sharpener, a seed pod filled with resin, hammered copper and basically anything else she can find or make.
"It's just the little odds and ends that make it more interesting," Burckhard said. "My biggest goal is to have something unexpected. And I love texture. I try not to rely too heavily on the color until I have the texture, where it's interesting."
Burckhard said one of her favorite moments from her time making and selling her pottery occurred while she was in a store and the owners were deciding which pieces they wanted to sell. While she was there, a customer came in and said he had to buy a particular piece of pottery.
"He said that he was colorblind, but he said it was just so visually interesting to look at that he had to have it. That was like the ultimate compliment for me," Burckhard said.
While many of the pieces she makes are customized, the majority of Burckhard's pottery is sold in stores. She said the current amount of pottery in the soon-to-open Kimball store is probably the smallest amount she's had at one time in about a year, thanks to the crowds that came through and bought her work during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
"The rally killed me. Everybody ordered big for the rally and then I ran out, and now everybody's reordering, so I'm scrounging," she said.
Though Burckhard said she's trying to make pieces quickly, she's also always looking for new techniques to try.
"I always have a new favorite. I'm always trying different things," she said. "I get bored rather easily, and so I'm always trying to come up with new ideas, because my thought is, if I'm bored, the customers are, too."