- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

RUDD, Iowa (AP) - Fifty years ago Wanda Gruis made a ceramic egg Easter present for each child in her first-grade class.

“They were appreciative,” said Gruis, a retired teacher.

Things mushroomed from there, and now the 86-year-old Rudd resident makes 2,500 ceramic eggs each year - not only for local youngsters, but also for those out of state.

The Globe Gazette reports (https://bit.ly/1ilRvJj ) that this year she has taken orders from New York, Tennessee, Kansas, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

She sells the eggs, which come in colors and designs such as Jungle Purple, Neon Red, Candy Corn, Seawind and Spring Meadow, for just $2 each.

Gruis said at that price she’s never going to get rich, but that’s not why she makes the eggs.

“I like to see their little faces when they get their eggs,” she said of the children.

Gruis learned about ceramics when she attended Upper Iowa University, where she minored in art.

She owns a shop attached to her house called Gruis‘ Open Gate. She made all the ceramics sold there herself.

Gruis said children love to come to her shop because of things like her rabbit hutch, which has ceramic rabbits inside.

“I tell them, ‘You can open my rabbit cage, but don’t let the rabbits out,’” she said, noting the little ones are sometimes surprised to discover upon closer look that the bunnies aren’t real.

Most of the ceramic eggs she makes are the size of real eggs, but she also makes some smaller ones that she sells in her shop.

She said a 4-year-old neighbor boy came by a few years ago and named these mini-eggs “honey eggs.”

He has one of his own.

“He takes his honey egg with him to bed at night,” Gruis said.

Gruis doesn’t advertise her business, except for the little notebooks and pens she gives away to visitors, which have the shop’s name and phone number on them.

However, her location on the Avenue of the Saints and word of mouth probably account for all the ceramic egg orders from far away.

Gruis starts making the eggs in the fall. She can make 72 eggs at a time with her molds, but she can only pour the molds every five days or so. If she does it more often than that, the chemicals in the poured material, called “slip,” eats away at the molds.

She fires the eggs in four kilns. She fires three times, with the child’s name going on the egg for the third firing.

She is careful to clean off the seams on the eggs created by the mold before firing them.

“People say my stuff is first-class because I’m particular,” she said.

So far this year, she has used 82 different colors for her eggs, and she’s got a lot more to do.

Many children get multiple eggs over the years.

“No child gets two eggs alike,” she said.

Gruis doesn’t own a computer, so she uses notebooks to keep track of which child received which color egg each year.

If a child drops an egg and it breaks, she can look it up in her notebook and make another one in the same color to replace it.

She said although everyone else “grumped” about the harsh winter this year, she was as happy as could be inside making her eggs.

Even after all these years, “I still love to do it,” Gruis said.


Information from: Globe Gazette, https://www.globegazette.com/

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