Jan. 13, 1949 – Jan. 27, 2018
“First off I’m not a writer. I’m a potter and I have been for over 40 years. This is not a story about pottery or ceramic art but a story of my journey in a small town in rural Montana and how my life and work has evolved through the years. It’s been a fascinating trip of exploration and discovery in such a simple way. Working with dirt and rocks. We are clay. We come from the very substance the earth is created from.” Patrick Eckman
Patrick William Eckman was born Jan. 13, 1949, in South Bend, Indiana, to Arthur “Dick” Eckman and Louise Eckman (Stalker). He spent his childhood living in the family home on Eckman Street in South Bend. Patrick’s childhood was spent around many older adults whom he looked up to and spoke about fondly.
Patrick attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and earned a bachelor’s degree in art.
After college Patrick diligently cared for his mother Louise until her death from cancer in 1973. After his mother’s passing, Patrick pursued his love of ceramic art with a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana, as well as a short apprenticeship in Narberth, Wales.
While studying and refining his passion for ceramic art and pottery at the Bray, he met and married Joan Van Duynhoven. Together they settled in Basin, where Patrick bought an abandoned Catholic church, renovated it and opened Basin Creek Pottery.
He spent more than 40 years making functional pottery and beautiful pieces of ceramic art that now fill homes around the world. Patrick and Joan raised three children who were greatly influenced by Patrick’s strong work ethic, creativity and passion for life.
Patrick was meticulous about his business and his craft. He spent his life researching and experimenting with clay, glazes and techniques to make his work and his art all his own. He was filled with knowledge of chemistry, geometry, and art history.
He made his living by incorporating his business into every aspect of his life. Not a trip to town or a family vacation was taken without a business venture included. He often traded his work for goods and services and was a savvy deal maker. The relationships and friendships he built with customers are countless. He was known for saying “Good thing pottery breaks. It keeps me in business.”
Patrick’s passion for life is shown through every piece of his pottery and art that has touched thousands of people over the years. Patrick also shared his knowledge of his craft with many people throughout the years, mentoring apprentices and then working for the University of Montana in the art department, helping students.
Along with his ceramic abilities, he was a builder and worked tirelessly to remodel and add on to his studio space as well as adding to his home which is full of furniture he built. His final project, one that he put so much work into building, was a new wood kiln that he designed and got to fire before his passing.
Art wasn’t Patrick’s only passion. He also loved being outdoors, listening to blues, and cooking, always with some extra spice. He kept a garden for many years. He planted many trees and with his family raised animals. He took pride in raising and growing food for himself and his family.
Patrick spent many hours in the mountains around his home, getting firewood, exploring and hiking. An explorer at heart, Patrick took his family on many road trips to Canada, Arizona, and the Midwest, trips that forever will be highlights to his children’s lives. He had a fondness for warm weather, so he often escaped the cold Montana winter by heading south.
Patrick was active and supportive of his community, serving with the Basin Volunteer Fire Department for many years and on the Basin School Board.
In the last years of his life Patrick built a deck overlooking the creek beside his house. He spent many hours sitting on the deck feeding and watching the birds, telling anyone visiting which kind of birds were which and, most endearingly, visiting with the fish in the creek, which became such a joy and special thing in his life.
Patrick is preceded in death by his infant daughter Della Rose, his mother and father Louise and Dick Eckman, and numerous aunts and uncles who he was close to and admired greatly as a child.
Patrick leaves behind his three children Mollie Eckman and Bob of Bozeman, Sarina, and grandson Jae Eckman of Basin, and his loving and devoted son Preston, who selflessly cared for Patrick in his final years on earth. Patrick was most comfortable with Preston by his side and we all are forever grateful for the care Preston gave him. Also, the mother of his children Joan Van Duynhoven of Butte, with whom he spent 20-plus years with raising their children; Patrick’s sister Diana Eckman-Streeter and husband Ted of Centreville, Michigan; nieces Cheryl and Josie, as well as multiple cousins and extended family about whom Patrick cared dearly.
The family would also like to thank his full-time caregivers in the final weeks. For providing such diligent and caring love to his comfort and well-being, we are forever grateful to Carol Oriet, Maria Wing, and Beryl Berger.
In Patrick’s final years the community of Basin and his longtime friends rallied around to help and support the family. We would like to thank them, in no specific order, Scott Crichton, Ed Betka, Greg Overturf, Al Olsen and Rebecca Romine, Karen Davidson and Steve Olson, Susie Hartman, Vince Yannone, Jim Cashman and so many others. It takes a village and ours is one in a million.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Basin Community Hall, Box 103, Basin MT 59631
A celebration of Patrick’s life will be held at a later date.
* PS - Don’t worry, Dad, we’ll be sure to take the garbage on Saturdays ~