July 2, 2011
Aspen artist and part-time resident Gerald Eskin, 76, died Tuesday in Iowa after succumbing to infections following a battle with heart problems.Locally, Eskin was popular for his art that used ceramics, and was also an avid skier. Nationally, Eskin was best known for helping patent the technology that allowed grocery store products to be scanned via barcode.According to his family, Eskin was born on Oct. 10, 1934, to Rose and William Eskin of Washington, D.C. His father, a butcher, owned a grocery store. At 15, he met the vivacious Sandra Israel, then 12. Their first date was her sweet 16; during the party they discovered they shared a taste for jazz and the same birthday. Two years later, in 1956, the pair married. As a teen, Eskin learned to shoot photographs using a Graflex Speed Graphic camera. He was hired as stringer for the Washington Daily News, covering sports, crime and nightlife. It was a job he later thought of as his favorite. At Eastern High School, a journalism teacher named “Doc” Regis Boyle insisted Eskin try something he’d never considered: college. Eskin graduated from the University of Maryland and later served as a photographer for the Air Force Reserves. He earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Minnesota. He taught marketing and market research at Stanford University and at the University of Iowa.In 1979, Eskin and three partners founded Information Resources, Inc., a market-research firm based in Chicago. Exploiting the potential of new technology that allowed grocery products to be scanned via barcode, Information Resources grew to one of the world’s leading market-research firms. Eskin was awarded three U.S. patents for technology he developed for IRI.After retiring from IRI in 1995, Eskin turned his attention to his long-time pursuit, ceramics. His work is held in major collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts & Design (formerly the American Craft Museum), Longhouse Reserve, the Mint Museum, the University of Iowa Museum of Art and the Racine Art Museum. Eskin conceived, designed and developed the ceramics collection for the University of Iowa Art Museum. He served as chairman of the advisory board of the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts, as a board member of the American Craft Museum, and as a member of the advisory board of the University of Iowa Museum of Art.Students often joined Eskin in Aspen to help with the three-day process of wood firing and to help move his sculptures, many of which weighed more than 1,000 pounds. He was an adventurous traveler, visiting potters across Asia and ancient ruins in Europe and the Middle East. These influences are clear in his work.Eskin was at home in Aspen preparing for that show in March 2010, when he suffered a heart attack. This spring, though still hospitalized, now in Iowa, Eskin had returned to shaping pots and was learning games for the iPad when he died.Eskin preferred a casual style: jeans and a beard.Eskin is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sandie “Zoe” Eskin; his younger brother, Howard Eskin, of Charlton, N.Y.; and three children: Joshua Eskin of Boulder; Leah Eskin of Baltimore, Md.; and Benjamin Eskin of Minneapolis; as well as seven grandchildren and one dog, Jackson. Eskin’s website, gerryeskinstudio.com, includes a tribute to his black Lab, Claude, who died in 2006. It concludes: “In lieu of flowers, feed a dog some table scraps or let your dog off the leash for a few minutes.” Contributions in honor of Eskin can be made to the University of Iowa Museum of Art or the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. A private burial was held Thursday. The family plans memorial services in Iowa City and Aspen later this year.