Peek In Pottery has been a staple in downtown Pekin for more than a decade, providing a creative outlet for people of all ages and even going out into the community to bring the experience to area school kids.

“This doesn’t solve world peace or anything like that, but when I get a package of thank you notes from kids that we’ve painted with or a note from someone that came in to the shop, I remember what this is all about and how it’s all worth it,” said Nora Lovell, who owns the shop at 421 Court St. with her husband, Danny, and sister, Margie Layman. 

The shop’s roots go back at least 21 years to when the sisters owned a similar business called Crafts to You in Peoria. Prior to that, they sold ready-to-paint products online. 

They first made the move to Pekin in 2008 in a storefront down the street from their current location because they were looking for a change.

“Pekin just seemed inviting, and everything kind of fell into place at the time,” Lovell said. Layman came up with the ingenious name Peek In Pottery. 

A week after opening, the sisters participated in the annual Luminary Walk that was part of Christmas on Court. “Oh my lord, that was an eye-opening experience,” Lovell said with a hearty chuckle. “We painted for free with the kids, and that was just amazing. A little girl named Macy came through with her grandpa and sat on his lap while she painted. She still comes in to paint and now she’s taller than me.”

While the shop has evolved over the years, Lovell said the mission has stayed the same: to provide an oasis where people of all ages and artistic abilities can nurture their creativity through ceramic arts. All the ceramic pieces are produced on-site at the store. 

Most items are painted with acrylics, but the shop can fire a piece in a kiln if the customer wants it glazed to use for cooking or eating, Lovell said.

“We have gone from having an inventory of about 500 to 800 molds to now having about 13,000,” she noted.

Over the years, the shop has provided art programs and activities, as well as fundraising opportunities, for local schools and nonprofit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the YWCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs, daycares and summer camp facilities.

Lovell and Layman pride themselves on being affordable and family friendly. “Since February to the end of the school year, we’ll have painted with about 800 children,” Lovell said. “It’s a whole lot of work, but to see those faces is priceless.”

Pieces at the shop can range from 50 cents to $50.

A group of kindergartners from St. Joseph’s Catholic School came in this spring to paint turtles, which they later named and made homes for back in the classroom. “Now they’re going to write a story about them, so it’s turned into this big project other than just being just a cute little turtle,” Lovell said.

The sisters also frequently take projects to area schools so they can reach a larger number of students at one time and also because they’re aware that some schools have transportation funding issues that prohibit them from busing students to the shop.

Lovell stressed that people of all ages and all physical abilities can paint at the shop. “We try to tailor our instruction to fit their special needs and capabilities,” she said.

“I think what makes us unique is the fact we have such a variety of things,” Lovell added. “It doesn’t have to just hang on the wall. It can be functional as well. You can come here and never do the same thing twice, and you’re not on a time clock here. You can take as long as you need or you can come back and finish it later at no extra charge. It keeps it affordable so it doesn’t have to be a choice between making a house payment or taking the family out for an evening of fun.”

For more information about Peek In Pottery, visit the shop’s Facebook page, website at www.peekinpottery.com or call 309-642-6055.