Visiting the Bay View studio of Beth Eaton Pottery, I had the enviable sense of the elements of work and family, business and creativity in harmonious balance. Beth Eaton’s work is featured in the Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art exhibition store, and is full of warmth and laughter and radiates a go-with-the-flow attitude as well as a clear vision. She is someone who both creates and responds to possibilities.
An early example: When Beth and her husband bought their home in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, the property needed a garage. Even though their family was just starting out at the time, she thought, why not take the opportunity to create a studio space in this new structure, full of possibility? Although when her children were very young Beth had less time to dedicate to her craft, now that they are older (Hedy just celebrated her seventh birthday and Charlie is twelve), the space is now the base of operations for a growing professional pottery studio. Read on to learn more about Beth and see pictures of her beautiful studio (and for a giveaway!).
While her children are at school during the day, Beth shapes her clay pieces in the studio behind the house. Then, when the family is home together in the evenings, she brings the works inside to her dining table to paint—although now that the kids are older, she says, “It’s nice to know that I can run out, then come back to it, too” while the kids have friends over or are busy with other activities.
Beth’s artistic trajectory is a lovely example of how the universe will smooth the way for us when we put ourselves on the right path. She acknowledges many signs throughout her life indicating that “this is what I am supposed to be doing.” While at UW-Milwaukee studying to become an art teacher, Beth became friendly with a customer at her university job named Nancy. Seeking permission to take a class in ceramics without the necessary pre-requisites, Beth made an appointment with the professor–who turned out to be the same Nancy! During the very first class, Beth knew that ceramics was the path for her. She remembers thinking, “That’s it, this is what I’m doing. It’s all I wanted to do. I knew right away… this is endless for me.”
Beth has started to do more custom work for businesses in Milwaukee, such as the pieces she is making for the Wisconsin Bike Fed pictured above, which she says “comes naturally for me, too, because when I was [a little girl] making pottery, I always made it with somebody in mind. I like working that way–knowing a business, appreciating a business, and then creating something that feels like that business.”
On the Friday afternoon I visited with the photographer Megan Yanz (whose beautiful images accompany this post), Beth’s daughter Hedy joined us for the beginning of our interview before heading over to play at a neighbor’s. Hedy and her brother Charlie have been working with clay since they were very young—you can see some of their early works in the family’s pantry in the photo to the left. In fact, Beth’s family has hosted kids’ ceramics classes in their backyard throughout the summer for nearly all of Hedy’s life! Beth also teaches ceramics at her kids’ school and has participated in many of Milwaukee’s most popular art fairs, including Art vs. Craft and the Urban Garage sale at Turner Hall. You, too, can stop by her studio for a “Seconds Sale” during the South Shore Frolics the second weekend in July, or say hi to Beth at the Fernwood Montessori School’s Art Fair on May 5th.
See Beth’s work in the Art Museum’s exhibition store when you visit Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art through May 4, 2014. You can take home pieces from Beth’s Camp collection, like an adorable stamped ceramic plate or mini dish. Show some love for our home state and the great outdoors with the Wisconsin Woods plate and Beth’s Yeti platter. There’s plenty more to see, so don’t miss this colorful and engaging exhibition!
Scroll down for more photos of Beth’s studio as well as a giveaway especially for Under the Wings readers! (Note: The giveaway has ended, but here’s another win: you can see more beautiful images of Beth’s studio and her home on Megan Yanz’s blog.)
Note: This giveaway is now closed. And now for the giveaway! Each Under the Wings reader who shares a comment on this post will be entered into a drawing to win set of four fun and unique Beth Eaton Pottery mugs, seen at left! Fine print: No purchase necessary. Must be 18 years old to enter; winner to pick up in store or pay minimum shipping fee. Winner will be drawn on Tuesday, April 1st (no fooling!) and will be notified via email, so be sure to enter your email in the correct field when you make a comment. Museum employees not eligible to win (sigh).
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Donele Pettit-Mieding was Museum Store Marketing Manager. She organized Museum Store events, promotions, and communications and introduced visitors to art and design objects to enjoy in their daily lives.