MONTANA WINDS  —  April Chamber Business of the Month is owned and operated by Wayne and Laurie Anderson.  Courtesy Photo for I-O



By Lisa Schmidt
Wayne Anderson’s passion for pots displayed itself at an early age.

“As a child, Wayne found clay on his family’s small farm outside of Whitefish and made logging trucks, loggers, and animals for his miniature logging camps.” said Anderson’s wife, Laurie.

“I never imagined doing anything other than making play things with clay until college,” Anderson added. His imagination has been in overdrive ever since college.

Wayne and Laurie met at Whitefish High School, but had little to do with each other until after she attended a bit of college at Brigham Young University (BYU) and then returned to Whitefish to work at Big Mountain Ski Resort, and after he worked a couple of years at J. Neils Lumber Co. in Libby.  A few years after they married, they moved to Dillon where Wayne earned his Bachelor of Science degree in English and Art. 

After Wayne completed college, they moved to Baker, Ore., for a job teaching middle school art and English.  They returned to Montana when Wayne was offered a job teaching high school art and English in Conrad.

“Wayne was in the high school art department for 37 years,” Laurie said.

A couple of summertime stints and a year of sabbatical at BYU earned Anderson’s Master of Fine Arts with majors in pottery and design and minors in painting and drawing. 

While at BYU he taught pottery classes on campus and co-taught a primitive pottery class in Hobble Creek Canyon. His Master’s studies in pottery of the Holy Land continue to influence Wayne’s work.  

“If I have a signature, it is the texture I add to my pottery and my designs which continue to reflect a middle-eastern quality,” Wayne said.
Thirty-seven years of teaching and four children could not squelch Wayne’s passion.

After retiring from the school system, the Andersons opened their Montana Winds Gallery so the public can see, feel and purchase Wayne’s art and watch him transform a hunk of heavy clay into a masterpiece.

Recently, Montana Winds was chosen to be the Conrad Area Chamber of Commerce (CofC) April Business of the Month.

The value of being a Member of the Month far exceeds the cost of an annual membership to the CofC.

The business will benefit from social media and print advertising, complimentary lunch for two at the April Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday, April 12, at the Horizon Lodge and a banner in front of their gallery at 311 S. Main Street, Suite D.

The best prize for each Member of the Month might be the CofC gift certificate that the business owners can pass along to anyone of their choice.

The gift certificate is a way for the Andersons to show appreciation to a good customer or contribute to a person or charity that needs a little help.

“The Chamber promotions committee came up with the idea for the gift certificate as a way to pay it forward. The Members of the Month can give it to a valued customer, employee or organization, celebrate by going out to lunch or use it to promote their business,” said Barbie Killion, CofC executive director. “Our goal is to bring awareness to those around us—and support those who support your attitude if you will. However they decide to use it, the certificate will circulate local dollars.”

The Andersons will feel right at home during the CofC luncheon at the Horizon Lodge—Wayne is on the board of directors there.

Both Wayne and Laurie contribute their time and skills within the Conrad community.

Every other Tuesday, the Andersons host the Creative Corner at the nursing home, guiding residents in pottery or watercolor painting.

Also, Laurie teaches and coordinates church school for the primary grades at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wayne helps teach pottery each spring at Conrad High School.

Along with offering lessons and birthday parties at their home studio, the Andersons host groups of cub scouts, girl scouts and church groups to try their hand at a potter’s wheel.

“We have three potter’s wheels so I try to make sure everybody gets a chance to throw a pot,” Wayne said. “Generally, they come back three times to finish—twice to learn basic hand building techniques while taking turns on the wheel, and a third time after I fire their creations so they can glaze them. After that I fire them again, and their pots are ready to take home.”

The Andersons built a 24 cubic-foot kiln in their home studio about 10 years ago.

“The real excitement comes when we fire that big kiln. It heats to 2,300 degrees with four gas burners. It is fierce sounding,” Wayne said.

Laurie is the team glazing technician. She develops the glazes using a variety of oxides for colorants, feldspar, dolomite and kaolin, among other ingredients.

“The colors develop during the firing and cooling. If we heat the kiln too fast, the colors won’t develop. If we cool it too fast, the glazes crackles,” Laurie said.

The Andersons work at Montana Winds Gallery Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except when they are watching one of their grandchildren play a sport, glazing and firing pots, or exhibiting at a summertime show.

This summer, they plan to display their art at Kalispell’s Hockaday Museum’s Arts in the Park juried show during July, the Huckleberry Festival in Trout Creek during August and at Havre Festival Days in September.

Those who want the latest updates from Montana Winds can follow the Andersons on Facebook, Montana Winds Pottery.

“We named our gallery Montana Winds because of the textures in the sandrocks around here that were created by the winds,” Laurie said. “Wayne loves to add that sandstone texture to his pots so we thought the name fit.”