| Abraham Cohn originally began his study of fine arts at the UW Madison as a painter. He studied painting in Paris on the G.I. Bill. At one point he decided to take a "simple" clay course for an easy three credits. In so doing, he met professor, author and nationally recognized potter F. Carlton Ball who influenced the direction Abe would take for the rest of his life.
When Carlton Ball left Madison after Abe's first year working with him, Abe moved to California. There he enrolled at Kentfield Jr. College (now College of Marin) because of their open studio policy - students could work as much as they wanted in the ceramics lab. Abe would often spend 60 hours a week working with clay and glazes.
After a year out west he returned to Milwaukee. It was 1953. Abe opened a basement pottery studio while working in the Layton Art school supply store.
Layton promised him a teaching position which never came to pass. So, Abe began teaching in his own studio. Soon he had over 50 students a week. Ginka Vogel - a modern dancer recuperating from polio, and with two young children and a live TV exercise program “Figure Fun” – became one of his students. They were married in spring of 1954.
In 1956 they opened the first potter's studio and gallery in Door County, the Potter's Wheel. They moved permanently from their Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood in the mid- 1990s to live in Fish Creek year-round.
Early on, Ginka and Abe began to reach out to other potters whose work they admired, offering to represent them at their gallery. In addition to being useful to Abe - who was never a production potter, but always took the time to make unique pieces - this strategy filled the gallery with a delightful variety of work.
Over the decades the Cohns brought in pottery and other artwork by scores of talented artists, whose work they were drawn to at art fairs, in professional publications, in studios and galleries visited in their travels, or on recommendation from other craftspeople. With Ginka’s and Abe’s discerning eyes and high expectations of quality, the offerings at the Potters Wheel have been an ever-evolving feast for hungry art lovers.
Abe’s awards include the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award in 1958, a 1961 Purchase Award by the Smithsonian Institute for its Seventh Annual Exhibition of Ceramic Art, and Abe was the first craftsperson to be given a solo show at the Milwaukee Art Center, in 1964. In 2010 he received a Wisconsin Visual Artists Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ginka, in addition to running the gallery, managing the interpersonal end of the business, and raising their (now 3) children, fulfilled her artistic strengths too. She was a dance and exercise teacher, performer, choreographer, and founder of the Milwaukee Modern Dance Council, the Moving Company, and the Peninsula Dance Council. She taught modern dance and exercise classes well into her 80s, building a loyal following and inspiring many people, young and old, to “keep moving.”
In 2005 the Cohns sold their property to the adjacent Peninsula School of Art, including a conservation easement preserving the wooded areas, and retaining the home and gallery in a life estate.
Together Abraham and Ginka Cohn built a life of artistic merit and personal integrity. Although Ginka passed away in May of 2011, the Potters Wheel carries on, this year with support from Abe’s son Jonathan Cohn, and from potter John Hansen of Colorado and Door County.