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Nora Eccles, who preferred to be called “Noni,” came from one of the wealthiest families in Utah. The sixth of nine children of pioneer industrialist David Eccles, she attended Barnard College in New York City; Utah State University; University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of California, Berkeley, ultimately majoring in psychology. In 1926, she married Walt Treadwell, a photographer and filmmaker. She installed a studio, wheel, and kiln in the Oakland home they built. By all accounts, they inspired and assisted each other’s work. She “liked to move her body and dance with the clay,” said Mark Prieto, a ceramist in the Bay Area, whose parents, Antonio (Tony) and Eunice, were best friends to Noni and Walt Treadwell. She had a “playful approach to clay . . . a captivating personality and a love of ceramics,” he elaborated.
In addition to her enthusiasm for collecting art, Noni wanted to learn how to make ceramics. She enrolled in classes at California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) in Oakland, where she became Tony Prieto’s student in 1946. When Prieto transferred to Mills College in 1950, she followed him. When she attended these two institutions, they were playing crucial roles in the development of studio pottery in America. She proved to be a skilled-enough potter to be invited to teach at CCAC and Mills from 1952 to 1953. She was an active member of the renowned Mills College Ceramics Guild and exhibited her pottery annually at the San Francisco Potters Association. Tony and Eunice Prieto played a considerable role in Treadwell’s artistic development.
Treadwell’s commitment to ceramics was extensive. She included in her estate a $2 million gift and four hundred ceramics from her collection, which were given to Utah State University in 1982. She also established the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation, which continues to support her legacy with annual gifts to the museum to purchase ceramics. Other examples of her endowments to studio ceramics in the Western United States include the Noni Eccles Treadwell Scholarship at California College of Arts and Crafts, the Noni Eccles Treadwell Ceramics Center at the California College of Art, and the USU Noni Eccles Harrison graduate fellowship in ceramics. In honor of her mother, the Ellen Stoddard Eccles undergraduate scholarship at USU demonstrates her lasting impact as a patron to potters throughout the West.
Billie Sessions, PhD.
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