Behind the Scenes Museum Store

Milwaukee Studio Visit: Beth Eaton Pottery

Read along as Donele Pettit talks with Beth Eaton in her studio.

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.

View of the Studio. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography
View of the Studio. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography

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.”

Wisconsin Bike Fed Mugs. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography
Wisconsin Bike Fed Mugs. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography

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.”

Charlie and Hedy's plates. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography
Charlie and Hedy’s plates. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography

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.

Finished pieces. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography
Finished pieces. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography

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!

Beth Eaton in her studio. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography
Beth Eaton in her studio. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography

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).

Never miss a drawing or a sale—be sure to sign up to receive eNews from Art Museum Store!

Donele Pettit Headshot

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.

42 replies on “Milwaukee Studio Visit: Beth Eaton Pottery”

Such charming designs! Her plates were my favorite items in the Uncommon Folk exhibit store. Great to put a face & name on the artist and take a peek into her studio.

Great Interview! I love Beth’s work. It is clear she has found the right path.

Beth is a fantastic artist. Some of my favorite BE pieces are little dipping bowls with her trademark blue fish. Unique and functional art! Love.

What a terrific article on Wisconsin artist Beth Eaton! Her quote, “…this is endless for me” is such an inspiring and compelling articulation of the artist’s journey. Her work is beautiful, cheeky, original and functional, too!

Shared this article on FB and left my name and email for the Beth Eaton drawing.

I drink my morning coffee from a lovely Beth Eaton mug each day. I swear it makes the coffee taste a little bit better.

We have several fish plates and bowls, and we always receive compliments when we use them!

Such beautiful work! I have admired Beth’s work for years. What a delight to visit her studio and learn more about her and her family. I look forward to ordering some custom work from her. Thank you for sharing this beautiful artist with us.

I never knew about her before reading this. Her pottery looks awesome! I have to check it out! Love it!

Wow. Fun and Function blend pottery! And you can tell she loves what she does! Her family is sooooooooo fortunate!!! Good luck Beth!

What a great article! Thanks for sharing the story of this talented artist. Beth’s work is so expressive. It makes me smile just looking at it.

Beth’s plates are amazing . . . they were the first item to catch my eye in the exhibition gift shop. Wonderful work from someone in our home state!

Love how she collaborates with local businesses. The camp line is adorable!!

Just saw the “Uncommon Folk” exhibit and was delighted to see Beth’s pottery as a modern interpretation of folk/craft art awaiting me at the end. What whimsical beauty she provides! Keep making the world beautiful, Beth!

I love your pottery! I have been looking to further my own collection and your art is clever and fun! Fantastic work.

Oh I recognized your work immediately!!! I have two little treasures of yours that I bought way back when at the (former, and sadly missed) Paper Boat. Those pieces are two of my most treasured items! Love your imagination and your aesthetic, such a pleasant mix of simplicity with whimsy. I also enjoyed reading a bit about you, your process, and your studio. Can’t wait to see in person your new work for the MAM!

Enjoyed your story. I too fell in love with clay the first time I handled it. You inspire me.

I love Beth’s work! I’ve purchased a few pieces over the years for gifts. I’m wondering what kind of clay she uses? Love the white! Also, does she throw any pieces?

I noticed Beth’s work the last time i was at the museum shop, so cute and would look great at my riverside cabin- Mari

Hi Jenny-Thank you for your kind words and your questions. Here is Beth’s response:
“The clay I use is a white earthenware. I do not throw as I find it messy and slab construction is so much cleaner!”

Thank each and every one of you for your lovely, positive comments. The winner of the drawing for four beautiful hand-built Beth Eaton Pottery mugs is…Jennifer Lucas! Congratulations, Jennifer!

Leave a Reply