Wisconsin Craft has a rich history and is committed to continuing the tradition of advocating and celebrating fine craft in Wisconsin communities and the broader region, just as our organizational predecessors did for over 105 years!
2021 - Present: Wisconsin Craft, Inc.
1982 - 2021: Wisconsin Designer Crafts Council, Inc.
In 2016, Wisconsin Designer Crafts Council celebrated our 100th year. (Technically, our organization is the second oldest craft organization in the country following Boston based Society of Arts and Crafts). We highlighted a small slice of some of the great folks that have made this organization what it is today! Get a glimpse of the history of our artists, their businesses and their fine craft. See the vibrant community of artists that have kept beauty alive, well and appreciated by many generations and many more to come!
Bob Eckels (1922-2004)
Eckels Pottery in Bayfield WI has been a center of creativity and inspiration for 55 years. The studio and gallery were started by Bob Eckels, a trained painter and sculptor who dedicated himself to ceramics. Bob was hired in the 1950’s as an art professor at nearby Northland College in Ashland WI, to start the art department that continues today. He moved his family and studio to Bayfield in 1962 where The Pot Shop has been an institution ever since. Bob passed away in 2004 and his daughter Dede continues the family pottery legacy. Read More
Annette Hirsh (1921-2020)
Annette Hirsh was an integral force in the growth and success of the Wisconsin Designer Crafts Council. As Historian, she has "kept the books" on what has happened throughout the years, an historical perspective and document that now resides at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Her long and varied career began as an illustrator for Gimbels and Boston Store, continued with drawing and painting and then transitioned to jewelry making and metalwork.
Jean Smaglik Wells
Jean has been an active, enthusiastic member of the organization for over 25 years, and is now the current president of WI Craft. Her interest in pottery was initially kindled by a visiting potter to her high school class and has continued unabated since.
After an apprenticeship under John Bailey and Claire Berger, and while earning a living in multiple roles, Jean developed her body of work, incorporating drawing, carving and painting with clay slip into functional pottery. She has grown and expanded her business as the art world has evolved, so that now in addition to the art fairs in which she began and continues to do, she now has commercial work and an online presence as well.
Active in the community as well, Jean founded a local event, Empty Bowls, which to date has raised over $637,000 for local food banks and meal programs! Read More
Barb Chappell has held just about every leadership position in the Wisconsin Designer Crafts Council, and carried them out with great dedication and personal involvement. Whether balancing the books, planning the annual meeting, organizing, (and doing much of the heavy lifting) for the Morning Glory Fine Craft Fair, she is always there with a smile. While she has now left the board, she is still a central figure on the Morning Glory committee, contributing her efforts and talents for its continued success. Barb's career encompassed being a student in creative arts, raising a family, becoming a successful business woman, educator, and of course, major contributor to the ongoing success of the organization. Read More
Sherry Wank is a lifetime member of WDCC. A jeweler, educator, mentor and friend, she has been instrumental in bringing WDCC to its 100th year! As she relates her story to us, she speaks of the story behind each piece of her work:
"I’ve always been fascinated by the story behind each piece of someone’s jewelry; the occasion that prompted the gift, the inheritance of a cherished piece of jewelry and who it came from, which travels brought the owner into contact with the jewelry and the charming man who made it, which baby it commemorates, what a great find it was at a flea market, how hard it was to make and how many technical problems had to be overcome, and on and on. For me, it’s always the story. The story adds immeasurably to the jewelry’s value." Read More
Barb says that enamels have been her passion since the mid 1960’s when--while earning a teaching license--she was assigned to an enameling class. This exploration continued with several enameling instructors in the Milwaukee area, including Sr. Lucinda Hubing at Alverno College, Ingrid Regula at MATC, and Sr. Rosemarita Huebner at Mount Mary College. All were WDCC members and encouraged her to become a member too.
In 1980 she began working with a strip-piecing method developed by the Seminole Indians. In her work, patched strips were used as the colorful tops of fabric boxes with matching cloisonné enamel latches. In more recent years inspiration for the box tops came from interesting fabrics, traditional patchwork designs, hand dying and other surface design techniques. Barb retired in 2019. Read More
Become A Member
Wisconsin Craft members enjoy a wide variety of activities designed to provide important information about the craft field. All members are welcome to get involved on a committee to shape the organization as it grows. You can help create and plan new events that build and promote interest in Fine Craft around the state.