"The Pot Shop" was founded by Robert (Bob) Eckels and Glenn Nelson in 1960. It was originally located in Ashland, WI. In the early sixties, the original structure was placed on flatbed truck and moved to its current location just south of Bayfield.
Bob Eckels played a key role in the arts movement of the Bayfield peninsula, leading the art department at Northland College, and by mentoring young clay artists through apprenticeships. Bob's work in clay is known throughout the country.
One of Bob's children Deanna Eckels, followed in his footsteps, becoming an acclaimed porcelain artist, while the other two became successful musicians.
Today, Deanna Eckels continues the legacy of her father, and Eckels Pottery and Fine Craft Gallery displays the areas finest pottery made right here in our studios. In addition, the gallery features the talents of more than forty other local, regional and national artists.
At Eckels Gallery we showcase pottery, jewelry, wood, stone, metal, garden art and more. Special orders are always welcome, and with our profound enthusiasm for the arts, you will also find classes and community events throughout the year.
Click image to see historic photos.
Potter and Gallery Owner
As a little girl I remember watching my dad Robert Eckels throwing a lump of clay down on a potter’s wheel and magically turning it into a beautiful pot. I would stand next to him grabbing at the swirls of clay as they slipped off the side of a pot that he was trimming. I made my silly little creatures and tried the pottery wheel. I wasn’t very good, but it was fun. I was a clay studio kid who grew up to become a clay studio potter. All this was not planned, it just happened. I went off to college at the University of Wi., Riverfalls to pursue something and at the time I thought it was music, but somehow it felt completely natural for me to be in the Art Dept in a ceramic studio.
I explored graphics, glass blowing and photography, but the pottery studio was where I spent the majority of my time. I graduated with a BA in Arts, and later added a teaching degree.
After college, I decided to return to Bayfield WI. for the summer to look at options for the future. Bayfield was a small town sitting on the edge of the big Lake Superior shores attracting national attention for the new Apostle Islands national park. This sense of place and beauty is what kept me coming back home. At the time my dad had apprentices from all over the country coming to his studio to learn and I joined them to advance my skills and learn how a pottery studio was run. I got no special treatment, I just moved into the same schedule as everyone else. This was a great studio to explore and master my personal artistic direction. I began working with porcelain clay and worked primarily on Sumi brush techniques, drawing on clay and surface design. This helped separate my pots from my dad’s. He was well known for form, function, and earthy stoneware clay pots reflecting the colors and textures of Lake Superior. We still use his beautiful stoneware glazes today. I also wanted to show my pots at big shows, juried shows where I could sell retail and wholesale. The American Craft Council Shows turned out to be a great venue to do this and the Smithsonian Craft show really topped my list. I soon realized I was not good at the wholesale game. I was doing more one of a kind works and reproducing high quality repetitive pots was not my forte.
So here I am 40 years later still working in the same pottery studio dad built in 1960. I worked with him for 25 years. Anyone who has worked with their parents knows that it is not always smooth sailing, but we developed an amazing relationship that I am still grateful for today. We worked together as professional potters, studio managers and father and daughter. In the end, I made sure he could finish out his years doing what he loved most-making pots. He passed away in 2004.
I remodeled the pot shop repairing old wiring and kilns that weren’t working well. I redesigned the working space and knew I needed a new business plan if I was to continue to make a living here in Bayfield which was at that time a growing tourist community attracting artists and boaters from all over the country. I had met so many incredible talented artists at the shows I was entering that I decided to start buying work from other Artisans to fill the shelves in the shop. I now represent local artists, and many well know artists from around the country.
This decision really changed my life. I now had to wear all the hats that it takes to make a small business work and still try to make good pots. My time in the studio competed with all the office work, gallery work and customer service I was doing. I tried to bring the apprenticeship opportunities back, but it was just too much for me to manage. So, I hired an employee and worked long 12-hour days to get my plan up and running. I worked this system for 10 years until I met the love of my life Peter Skoro. At the time he was teaching Graphic Design and we commuted back and forth to Minneapolis, MN. He was also a great potter, so we got married, he moved to Bayfield and we are now living the potter’s studio duo dream.
My latest work is still porcelain, but I take a nontraditional approach. By staining the surface, I can then etch and use scraffito effects depicting animal images, and reflections of the beautiful north woods. Trees, fish, bears, herons are common themes.
I am constantly exploring new and innovative ways to draw on clay. I can only stay in one creative place for so long, I had learned that lesson long ago when I tried to repeat pots for wholesale. I add slip trailing, stamping, mixing glazes and stains hoping to find that one combination that thrills me. Exploration is a big part of my process and once in a while a pot will come out of the kiln and it just sings. I also design and sell a variety of functional pots. From dinnerware to honey pots, it still pays the bills and brings our patrons back year after year.
We still open our studio to visitors and show them the process of making pots. We run a Raku event during July inviting the community to come and participate. We teach school groups and students that we set up on an individual basis. The long-term plan is to back off the extensive retail in the gallery and turn the pot shop back to what it was years ago-a teaching studio/pottery. This takes me full circle. I want to finish my pottery career kind of like where I started- just playing with clay.