March 1948: Bill Nagengast born in Englewood, New Jersey.
Summer 1949: Lost the use of my left arm. Some might consider this a major tragedy, but I do not. I just was able to do everything I wanted using my right arm…not really a big problem.
Summer 1955: Big breakthroughs of the year: Being able to dress myself, tuck in my shirt, button my pants and tie my own shoelaces. “A very big year” for me, in terms of lifetime achievements.
Summer 1965: Awarded Eagle Scout Award.
August 1966: Started college at Central Michigan University (CMU) in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
Summer 1967: Attended Marguerite Wildenhain’s Summer Pottery School in Guerneville, California.
July 1973: Graduated from CMU with B.S. in Physics & Chemistry, and B.A & M.A. in Art and Secondary Education. I was a marginal science student, however I was a lot better in the studio making pottery.
August 1973: Apple Lane Pottery was started in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Located in old Sheep Barn of Apple Lane Farms, a McIntosh Apple Orchard, planted in 1910. I became a full time studio potter at this time, producing wheel thrown porcelain – mostly functional pottery. I could not find glazes I really liked, so I researched and developed my own glazes, which I mix myself.
1974 – 1986: Outdoor Street Art Fairs: Shows in the Midwest/ Eastern U.S: Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, California, New York and Kansas.
February 1977: A studio fire started after I had turned off my gas fired kiln. This destroys the Sheep Barn – and my studio and showroom. No one injured. The kiln was covered by debris, but undamaged. The kiln load of pottery inside was unloaded two days later. All of the pots were beautiful - protected from the fire by the kiln.
April 1977: A studio gas explosion during kiln firing destroys studio during rebuilding of studio from February fire. My father, Bill Sr., was “helping me out” by firing my newly built 7 ft catenary arch brick kiln. 3000 bricks are hurled in all directions. Windows are blown out and the temporary roof was blown away. Standing directly next to the kiln at the moment of the explosion, my father walks away totally blackened by soot, but without a scratch. My mother said that afterwards he could only stammer over and over, “I’m… alive,” in astonishment. It was a miracle.
January 1978: I bought a house and moved my studio to New Hudson, Michigan. Family relations improve. I married Judy, the love of my life, in April, 1978.
October 1980: A studio apprentice fails to shut off the kiln and this creates a fire that destroys my studio. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Everything in the studio was destroyed. I had no insurance, bills to pay, and had to get my first real job. I had to become a part-time potter for a while. I took summers off for pottery and worked winters. I started working as an Automotive Draftsman/Designer in the GM Advanced Vehicle Design Studios. They made life sized vehicles from clay. They used the same clay tools I had in my studio, only they used them to make cars.
February 1985: I traveled Anderson, Indiana to work for a year as a Design Engineer for automotive headlamps. After two years we sold our home and bought a house in Indiana. Judy and I started Continental Inc, an Automotive Engineering Company that designs and develops GM Exterior Lighting components.
Summer 1986: My last Art Fair: Ann Arbor Street Fair
March 1986: My son, Benjamin was born.
May 1988: My daughter, Natalie was born.
1994: I built a new Apple Lane Pottery studio near our home on 100 acres of farmland and wooded hills. Much to my surprise, along the road that is our driveway into the woods, there are some old apple trees from an old farm that was here before us.
2008: Started – Solas Ray Lighting – a company that designs and engineers LED lighting products.
2013: I have not been a full-time studio potter for many years now, but I still have my Apple Lane Pottery studio. I used to attend around 25 Art Fairs a year, but now I make one or two kiln loads of pottery a year for family, friends and local Charity Auctions.