Bob Eckels and Glen Nelson built the "Pot Shop" in 1960. Bob had begun the ceramics program at Northland College in Ashland, WI and Glen was teaching ceramics at University of Minnesota, Duluth. The two friends joined together to build the Pot Shop on the south shores of Lake Superior near Ashland, WI, then moved to Bayfield. The pottery was the first of its kind in northern Wisconsin.
Bob began his art career studying sculpture and painting at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Bob met his wife Lucile (Lu) at school, who was studying English. Lu earned a Fulbright Scholarship in 1955 to study in England. On their trip, Bob and Lu visited Bernard Leaches pottery studio in St. Ives. From the visit, Bob fell in love with pottery. Upon graduation, Bob and Lu moved to New Mexico where they started their family. Bob continued his career in education, teaching at Stratford College, VA and Northland College, WI.
Bob and Lu offered their children, Steve, Jeff, and Dede a rich artistic environment of poetry, music, and visual art. At the pottery, each spent time in every phrase of ceramics.
Bob also offered a unique apprenticeship opportunity to students for over 45 years, working side-by-side with the family. Students came from all over the country to work and learn about making pots and running a pottery studio. Many continued onto careers in ceramics, teaching, related industries, and studio work.
GROWING UP - Deanna (Dede) spent her youth growing up in Danville, Virgina. Her father, Robert (Bob), mom, Lucile, and two brothers began migrating during the summer months to the Bayfield area. Her father started the pottery. The family eventually settled in Bayfield, WI. Dede grew up working around clay.
In 1980, Dede graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from University of Wisconsin, River Falls. Following college she apprenticed at a pottery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working in porcelain. Dede took Sumi painting classes and also used this technique in her apprenticeship work.
THE POT SHOP - Dede returned to Bayfield to work with her dad at what was then named, "The Pot Shop." Dede worked along side many apprentices, who were there studying with her father. Many who have gone on to careers in ceramics. The Pot Shop was one of the earliest influences of the artistic culture Bayfield is known for today.
ECKELS POTTERY - Today, Dede continues the pottery as Eckels Pottery and Fine Craft Gallery. She also continues to make pottery, assisted by her husband.
She has expanded the Pot Shop to include artwork made by local artists, as well as many nationally recognized artists: jewelry, garden art, glass, and wood. The most charming aspect might be the lesser known artists' work Dede offers at the gallery.
From a life involved with discoveries in clay, Dede's work is cherished and collected by many people.
Her work ranges from fine art display pieces as well as decorative functional tableware. Special commissions include interior design accents and commemorative pieces for companies and families.
HER WORK - Dede works mostly in porcelain. Some is traditional "cottage" style with soft pastels, figurative flower images softly painted with Sumi brush. Other pieces are fine art and functional, brushed with energy and intention, to express a feeling of nature, shore, or flora and fauna. She implements stamping, graffito, painting, and slip trailing.
Her pottery decoration tradition reflects the beauty of Bayfield, surrounded by the quiet majesty of Lake Superior, the Bayfield Peninsula, the Chequamegon Bay, and the Apostle Islands. The decoration includes fish, birds, insects, and other influences from nature. All have a spiritual meaning to Dede that carries a story. From a lifetime of clay, she is a master potter still learning.
AN EDUCATOR - Peter grew up with an appreciation for art through his father, Don Skoro, who was a graphic designer. Raised in Minneapolis, Peter fell in love with clay in high school ceramics classes. He went on to graduate with a BFA in Design from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and continued in a career in art and graphic design. He now teaches graphic design art classes at Northland College in Ashland, WI.
A POTTER - In the pursuit of becoming a potter, Peter took classes at Northern Clay Center, Fired Up, Inc. and Minneapolis Community College (MCC). Peter spent two years taking classes at MCC working with instructor, Barbara Hagar, and learned many of the basics of how a ceramic studio works. His wife, Dede, continues his education in clay, both sharing experiences and learning from each other.
HIS WORK - Influenced by his experience in graphic design and especially typography. Peter has an affection for shape, form, and composition, which are always goals whether the pot is traditional tableware style or a more decorative piece. He is conscious of the energy a shape can contain by its form, every pot has a personality, and purpose of it's own and is an acknowledgment of those qualities.
Working mostly in stoneware, sometimes in porcelain, Peter makes much of the traditional Eckels style pottery Dede's father, Bob, began. "I try to bring my appreciation for composition to each piece of Eckels pottery, from foot to shoulder and from rim, to lid."
Characteristics of Peter's personal pieces include rustic qualities of glaze and texture as well as simple and balanced shape or silhouette. Like a letter in typography, a pot can have a baseline, stroke, be serif, or sans serif.