Spirit Lake, Idaho, is a beautiful little town, reminiscent of earlier days folks knew and trusted their neighbors.
Longtime resident and artist Brad Sondahl trusts his neighbors and strangers alike which becomes obvious if you were to stop by his business, Sondahl Pottery, when he’s not around. In an outdoor covered area, pottery sits on shelves and a note on the door directs a buyer to slide their payment under the door.
Sondahl lives just down the street so he could be there in no time if you were paying with a credit card. When asked if he has ever had a problem with thieves, he answered, “no, not that I can recall.”
If you were to be lucky enough to stop by his shop around lunch time, you’d probably be invited to partake in a bowl of his homemade soup or a slice of homemade bread or perhaps, when he’s not sitting at his potter’s wheel, catch him playing the guitar, the harmonica or a tin whistle.
Sondahl grew up in the Midwest. He attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art with a focus in pottery. He apprenticed with a potter for two years in Minnesota and moved to Spirit Lake, where his wife is from, in 1982. He opened his shop in the building where the family lived. They added rooms to the space and later bought a house down the street.
Sondahl’s pottery sells well. His shop is on the road that leads to the lake and is a fixture in the area with a wide customer base. He makes mugs, dishes, platters, large and small bowls, vessels with lids, lamps, bathroom accessories, candle holders, and more.
His work is simple, elegant, and heartwarming. “I’m also a musician, a cook, a gardener, photographer, and a writer, and in all those endeavors it’s the same thing – taking something commonplace, and making it something beautiful, something that does touch the heart,” he said, “I prefer to sell my pots where there is a positive feeling, including the setting and the entertainment, such as Art on the Green, or the upcoming Fall Folk Festival at Spokane Community College, or the CAGNI Mud and Spirits sale where my potter and my musical friends and myself reach out to connect and share themselves with the people who come.”
CAGNI is the Clay Arts Guild of North Idaho and Sondahl is president. The group includes more than a dozen artists from North Idaho as well as Spokane, Spokane Valley, Mead and Medical Lake.
The seventh annual Mud and Spirits show will take place at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center in Post Falls next Saturday. The free event will include live music.
“All of the things that I do fit together well,” Sondahl said. “It’s less stressful which leads to a healthier lifestyle. Who doesn’t like playing in the mud?”