Q. When did you make your first pot?
BILL: That was in the spring of 1961 in Mrs. Brykalski’s 8th grade art class. I made a small pitcher. I was
amazed I could do it! I had a feeling that a miracle had occurred! I doubt there was any foretelling of
my future with that one piece, but I still have this pot and recall the thrill I had doing it.
Q. That does seem a step ahead of the ashtray I made on my first attempt. Did you continue
making pottery after that?
BILL: My next opportunity to make pottery was in this wonderful studio in college – at Central Michigan
University (CMU). The College had an Open Studio in the Student Union. Anyone could go in there and
create art, provided they weren’t Art Majors. There was a small group of us who were regulars and we
played around with lapidary (polishing and cutting gemstones), calligraphy, photography and pottery.
There were no formal lessons and we taught each other. I enjoyed all these art forms and even used my
calligraphy skills in a side job, making signs for events. As time went on, I found I gravitated towards
pottery. I seemed to have a natural ability, and this got noticed. I was encouraged to take some
Q. Did you go on to take pottery classes?
BILL: Yes. I started taking pottery from a wonderful CMU professor, Jay Shurtliff. He was a marvelous
teacher. He was encouraging from the start.
Q. I heard you went to California to study pottery from Bauhaus-trained ceramic artist and
educator Marguerite Wildenhain. How did that come about?
BILL: Professor Shurtliff had studied with Marguerite at Pond Farm Pottery in Guerneville, California (45
minutes north of San Francisco near the wine growing region of Napa Valley). He thought I could benefit
from her 9-week summer workshop in throwing pottery. When I approached my parents, I found out
that my grandmother had purchased a Life Insurance policy for me when I was born (that was popular
back in the day). It had now matured and was worth $1000.00. That was enough for the school, food,
lodging and travel. So, I signed up for the workshop, packed my bags and went. I had my parents ship
out my bicycle and used that for transportation. Luckily another student would ferry me to class every
day, since the studio was up on top of a large mountain in the Armstrong Redwoods, now part of the
California State Parks System.
Q. How was your experience with Marguerite?
BILL: I respected Marguerite. She was tough and lived during turbulent times in Germany in the 1920s
and 1930s. She had to flee to this country to escape the Nazis, and eventually settled at Pond Farm in
California where she made a living selling pottery and taught her summer workshops, concentrating on
the throwing process. Unfortunately, she refused to teach me throwing because I only had the use of
one arm. She regulated me to hand building only. But I watched and learned so much from the other
20 potters in the workshop. Initially it was a severe disappointment, but I look back on it as one of the
best experiences of my life.
Q. How did this setback affect you?
BILL: For a few months I was secretly crushed by it and had no desire to make any pottery. Luckily,
Leone Weber, the Open Studio Director at CMU coaxed me back to the wheel, and I realized how much I
loved making pottery. I never stopped after that!
Q. How did Professor Shurtliff affect you?
BILL: He was so supportive and encouraging, it gave me a safe space to learn and grow as an artist. He
had a profound impact on my life as a potter.
Q. How did you start Apple Lane Pottery?
BILL: My Dad had this old sheep barn on his property, on what was once a large MacIntosh apple
orchard. He offered to let me use it and staked me for my starting expenses including a kiln, wheel, and
tools. Unfortunately, it took 8 months to get my kiln so it was almost a year until I could start selling
pottery. By then I had learned about the numerous street art fairs in the Midwest and Florida.
Q. How was your experience selling your pottery?
BILL: After working in the Studio, often all by myself, it was fun to get out and meet the people who
bought my pottery. It was also an opportunity to meet other artists. I would often trade my pottery for
art. My wife’s favorite was trading pottery for jewelry, or as she put it “trading mud for gold!”
Q. Were you able to make a living as a Potter?
BILL: Yes. It was a lot of work but very rewarding. I would pay attention to what would sell and what I
would end up packing up at the end of the day. It became apparent that customers like bright colors.
So, I started focusing my glaze development on more blues, oranges and greens.
Q. What were some of your favorite Art Fairs?
BILL: The Ann Arbor Art summer art fairs (there are four that occur simultaneously) is at the top of the list. So
much was going on, so many artists, and the college atmosphere of the show was fabulous. It ran for
four of the hottest July summer days, and with the street asphalt, the temperatures would soar. It was
exhausting and grueling, but it was such a great Show. My brother Bernie helped me man my booth. He
was a student at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor back then, and he’d go into the nearby Student
Union restrooms and take off his shirt and soak it completely in the cold water. He’d put it back on wet
and come back to my booth with a trail of water behind him. In a little over an hour, he was totally dry –
and he’d go back for another trip to the “dunk tank”. But that was Ann Arbor – with over 100,000
people a day coming to the show, and it was such a wonderful mix of great sales and great customers.
The Old Town Art Fair (Chicago) would be also at the top of my list of favorite shows. This show is just so
well run, expertly planned and has such a wonderful collection of artists. Located in a historic district of
Chicago it is filled with Victorian era houses and eclectic shops and restaurants. During the fair the
Buddhist Temple would roast and sell amazing teriyaki chicken dinners. I looked forward to that every
year! This show is a fund-raising event that charges admission for a number of worthy causes, and this
creates an electric show atmosphere with extremely interested and well-informed attendees. The sales
were always great, and I came the closest to selling out at this show (selling all but 6 pots).
Q. Do you still do Art Fairs?
BILL: After nearly 40 years away I did a craft show in Chicago sponsored by my daughter Natalie (Markets for
Makers) in Nov 2022. While I found this very enjoyable, with a wonderful reception and great sales, it
was exhausting. And at my age (75 years), I do not have any future plans to attend any Art Fairs. Hence
my new Web Site, where I will sell my work as I make it.
Q. I understand you eventually got a “real job” as an Engineer. How did that compare to making
a living as an artist?
BILL: Wow. Both are so different. I am proud of both jobs, but in different ways. There were many challenges
that I had to resolve as an engineer, and I was very proud of my over 20 Patents that I earned as a
Lighting Engineer. But being an artist in the studio - where you can create something personal – that’s a
very special feeling that is extremely satisfying. Making a living as an artist as I did for about 12 years
was not easy. It is tough work, but I was very happy making a living this way and I wouldn’t trade the
experience for the world.
Q. Now that you have retired from the “real world”, how does it feel to be able to go back to
being a potter full time?
BILL: Love it. I just love it. The freedom to make what I want, when I want – it’s the best! I am also excited
because we just broke ground on my new studio in Florida. I will still take some classes at DFAC in the
winter but will now have the freedom and space to create all year round.
Q. You have an eclectic background from chemistry & physics, to engineering and of course to
art. How do these skills translate into the work you are currently producing?
BILL: Crystalline glazes incorporate all of these. There are three firings in the kiln and an acid etching process
at the end. You must start with clay and make a pot (art). Then - from the glaze formulation and testing
(chemistry) to the application process and crystal forming process (physics) to the computer
programming of the kiln firing and cooling stages (engineering) and then to the different atmospheres of
a gas kiln firing to change colors (chemistry & physics) followed by the acid etching (chemistry)….
crystalline has it all.
Q. What are your artistic goals?
BILL: Right now, I am testing and exploring this technology. This summer I plan to start using my gas kilns to
fire crystalline glazed pottery. My goal is to push the limits of technology and art, creating pieces with
the intense colors of gemstones. The gas kiln allows you to get different colors and effects like
iridescence. I am excited to see what I can create!