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 Robert & Bev
Pillers
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Pillers Studio Clay

About Us: Our Life, So Far



Although we both grew up in the small Mississippi River town of Clinton, Iowa, and even briefly attended the same school, we didn't meet until after we had both returned to our hometown in our mid-twenties. Beverly had attended the University of Houston and Northeast Missouri State and had lived a couple of years in Maui, Hawaii, before it was "discovered". After graduating from Valparaiso University in Indiana and wasting a year in law school, Robert was helping out in the family businesses, painting, and playing music.
On our first date, we found we shared an interest in pottery.

In the summer of 1975, the Clinton Art Association established "The Potting Shed" with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. For $50 for a four month session, each student got his own key to the building, all the clay he could use, and free firing in the kilns! Instruction came in the form of workshops with the many excellent potters in and around the University of Iowa, and later from a series of Potters-in-Residence. In addition, the members of the first session received the invaluable experience of setting up the studio, including building the wheels and kilns, and even prospecting for clay deposits. By the end of the session, we could do everything but competently throw pots! We spent many happy hours wasting the free materials, and in the summer of 1976 attended a two-week intensive workshop given by the University of Minnesota at the Quadna Ski Resort.
We were hooked!

In early 1977 Bev found a deal on a wedding dress that was too good to pass up, so in June we finally made it
official before the Preacher Man.

On a trip to visit Bev's brother Zach Taylor in the fall of 1978, we fell in love with New Orleans, and Bev was able to take advantage of Robert's growing dissatisfaction with his work situation to entice him to make the move by dangling before him the opportunity to pursue pottery full-time. We returned the next spring, and in a couple of days had found a job for Bev, studio space for Robert, and an apartment to live in. Two weeks later, we were esconced in the land of the Cajuns.

For the next four years, Robert worked out of "The Pottery" on Prytania St., a block from beautiful Audubon Park, with Pege Shapiro Cogswell and Evelyn Jordan (Hannant), and Bev took advantage of the studio space whenever she could. We travelled the art show circuit from Florida to Texas,
and made many good friends along the way.

As Bev's work situation improved, we were able in the spring of 1982 to take a much anticipated trip to Japan to visit many, many potteries, kiln sites, and museums, and returned very much inspired. In early 1983, the international commodities firm Bev was by then working for decided to pick up and move to Virginia Beach, so, after viewing the area, we decided to tag along. We were able to find a suitable house and property in a rural section of neighboring Chesapeake, and established our pottery on the main highway to the North Carolina Outer Banks,
three miles from the Virginia-North Carolina state line.

In March, 1984, our family was enlarged with the addition of our daughter, Laurel Taylor Pillers. In February, 1985, we took advantage of the opportunity to visit England when a good friend of Bev's moved to London. Once again,
the pottery scene was the focus of our trip,
and the highlights included the Chinese porcelains at the
Percival David Foundation, and a pilgrimmage to St. Ives,
the habitat of the grandfather of the
studio pottery movement, Bernard Leach.

In early 1989, Bev's company, in which she had by now worked her way up to financial controller, once again decided to pick up and move, this time to Memphis. Although Bev was greatly in love with her job, it was hard to imagine never again taking Laurel to the beach! After much soul-searching, she decided to take Robert up on the same offer she had made to him years before: if she decided to stay,
she could join him in the studio full-time.
Since then, we have been able to fulfill our life-long
dream of working together in the studio.

In January, 1997, Bev participated in a brigade to Nicaragua sponsored by Potters For Peace, which works with potters in Nicaragua, a country with widespread clay resources and a long pottery tradition, to offer economic aid with
technical and marketing support. Her article on this trip,
"Visiting Potters in Nicaragua," was published in the June-July-August 1998 issue of Ceramics Monthly magazine.
In January of 1999, she returned with Robert in tow and revisited some of the potters she had met two years before, some of whom had been badly impacted by Hurricane Mitch, as well as participating in new projects such as the construction and firing of eight new wood kilns and an exciting ceramic water filter project. In February-March, 2000, the whole family returned with Laurel this time, and worked in the only high-fired stoneware studio in the country, testing glazes made from local materials.

In our spare time (whatever that is), Bev designs and
hand-stitches beautiful quilts and serves on the
City of Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission;
Robert still occasionally plays the blues;
Laurel is getting ready to attend Randolph-Macon College;
and the whole family enjoys an occasional spin
in one of our his-and-her 1950 Studebaker Champion
"bullet-nose" sedans. If you ever visit the North Carolina Outer Banks, be sure to stop in on the way by and say Hey!


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