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RACINE — Jean Wells of Jean’s Clay Studio is the winner of the Adult Division of the 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition at the Racine Art Museum, 441 Main St.

Jean Wells wins First Peep Award with “Steep and Peep” at 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition 
Jean Wells holds a platter that she made. – Credit: Stephanie Bartz Photography

The experienced artist and potter is based out of Milwaukee, Wis., but has a special place in her heart for Racine.

Each year, she enjoys visiting the area to go to the annual exhibition based around the marshmallow confection.

“People just seem really enthusiastic about the work,” said Tyler Potter of RAM. “It’s a lot of work but seeing the actual show come together and then just seeing everybody really getting into it, when they visit the museum, it makes it worth it.”

First-time participant

The show is a well-loved tradition in Racine. However, this year was the first time Wells entered the competition.

“I’ve always enjoyed coming to the show and bringing my kids. I don’t do many exhibitions. And of course, this isn’t a typical exhibition, but I saw the Call for Artists, I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I should just really try,’ It’s such fun imagery,” said Wells.

Jean explained that she was in the process of making about five teapots when she decided to enter the competition. Her submission this year was titled ‘Steep and Peep’ and is a continuation of her artwork that highlights her design style of demonstrating ‘sgraffito‘ also known as slip-carving.

“I don’t make cups and saucers very often. Not a lot of people use teapots or cups,” said Wells.

Wells’ “Steep and Peep” took First Peep in the 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition. – Credit: RAM

The piece she entered is very fitting with RAM’s connection to having one of the largest public collections of contemporary artist-made teapots in the United States. The museum has over 500 pieces.

According to Wells, teacups, cups and saucers have a connection to socializing with others and being present.

“Teapots, cups and saucers speak so much to slowing down and having tea with a friend, or family,” she said. “Plus they’re a fun form to work with and challenging.”

Not only did she take the cake for this year’s show, but she’s also related to the owners of Wells Brothers Pizza. When in town, she loves soaking up this slice of the city and her family’s restaurant. This year’s achievements for Wells mean a great deal given her passion for Racine.

And the trip to town this year is just that much more exciting knowing her hard work was recognized. Wells appreciates and loves the Golden Glass Peep Award that she received from Hot Shop Glass courtesy of RAM.

‘Spilling the tea’ on her pottery

Jean has been professionally working as a ceramic artist for over 30 years. Her art tends to resemble nature scenes on mugs, vases, bowls and plates.

She went to the Cleveland Institute of Art to study Ceramics and minored in Portrait Painting. 

“When I started my business, I really felt my goal was to be supported by my community,” said Jean.

Jean Wells wins First Peep Award with “Steep and Peep” at 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition 
A medley of mugs. – Credit: Jean Wells
Jean Wells wins First Peep Award with “Steep and Peep” at 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition 
The Milwaukee skyline. – Credit: Jean Wells
Jean Wells wins First Peep Award with “Steep and Peep” at 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition 
Vases with her signature sgraffito technique. – Credit: Jean Wells
Jean Wells wins First Peep Award with “Steep and Peep” at 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition 
A tropical, floral-inspired pattern is seen on this platter. – Credit: Jean Wells

She’s accomplished that goal and then some.

Jean serves the community by making functional and recognizable artwork. Her artwork can be purchased online on Etsy.

“The best thing that a potter can hear is, you know, ‘I use your mug every day,’ or, ‘I have to wash these dishes all the time because it’s the only thing my kid will use,'” Wells shared.

In addition to being an artist full-time, Wells serves as the President of Wisconsin Craft, a non-profit that strives to advocate for – and celebrate – fine crafting throughout the state.

“We’re a growing organization and want to have both our working artists, hobby artists, and then supporters and patrons as well,” she said.

Explore the arts

Coming up, Wells will be at numerous art fairs and shows in Wisconsin. Events that she participates in can be found on her News/Events page on her website.

Notable shows are the Morning Glory Art Fair in Milwaukee, the Art Fair On the Square in Madison, and the Midsummer Festival of the Arts at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan.

In addition, she will be opening her studio up to the public during the MKE Studio Tour. The public is welcome to participate in the self-guided tour and visit various locations around Milwaukee County to see participating artist studios and shop their wares.

“There are also guest artists at most of the tour stops, so there is a large variety of art. (It’s) a great way to explore Milwaukee County and support local artisans. I set up my show tent in our backyard, open up my garage studio and have two guest artists of different mediums in the yard as well,” said Wells.

Get involved

There is still time to support this year’s show at the RAM. The show is open daily from noon until 4 p.m. and will run through April 15. Can’t make it? Watch the RAM 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition online.

In addition, Wells encourages attendees and people across the state to dive into the arts.

Jean Wells wins First Peep Award with “Steep and Peep” at 14th Annual International Peeps® Art Exhibition 
Jean Wells demonstrates the sgraffito technique. – Credit: Stephanie Bartz Photography

“Everyone should try it. It’s never too late to take a pottery class,” she said.

Locally, classes can be taken at the Racine Art Museum. Find information about classes on their website.

Questions about the Racine Art Museum can be answered by visiting their website. For a full list of winners and more about this year’s exhibition, read the coverage on our website.


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