Bill Palmer is a key member of our Commercial Sales team, bringing with himself a degree in ceramics from UCSB and work experience in the ceramic industry since 1970, working extensively in the United States, Germany, and Asia for a variety of specialty dinnerware, giftware, tile, and brick manufacturers. Bill has been immersed in every phase of the chemistry, production, design, sales, marketing, and installation of ceramic products, and we couldn't be happier to have him as part of the Fireclay Team. Below Bill talks to us about his background and passion for the tile industry.
I started exploring the world of ceramics as a student at UCSB in the late 60s, experimenting with raku, salt, wood, and high temperature reduction firing. A professor introduced me to Brian and Edith Heath, iconic founders of the now 67-year-old Heath Ceramics of Sausalito and San Francisco. And so, after graduating I migrated north to join Heath as production manager, glaze chemist, and designer. In doing so, I had made the transition from the world of studio ceramics, which is what I had intended to pursue, into factory production pottery and tile making. In the ensuing years, I have had the pleasure of working for a variety of companies in the US, Germany, and China in all aspects of ceramic manufacturing, marketing, and sales. Most of those companies; McIntyre Tile, Elgin Butler, Trikeenan Tileworks, Lipp Keramik to name a few, have endured the ups and downs of the various markets that they have been involved in, by adapting and bending traditional ceramic technology into unique and beautiful products.
Image: Bill working as Heath Ceramic's dinnerware manager in 1986
My interest in ceramics is continually sparked by the links to the rich pottery traditions that span the globe and date back to ancient civilizations. The technical language of ceramics is international and remarkably crosses cultural and language barriers with relative ease.
I met Paul Burns, founder of Fireclay Tile, back in 1986 when he was just leaving Stonelight Tile, another historic CA tile company linked to his family, to launch Fireclay Tile. Paul and Fireclay have always been known for focusing on sustainable manufacturing and I had always been intrigued with what he was doing. In that the ceramic community is relatively small, Paul and I had crossed paths over the years and when the company was looking to expand and needed someone to spearhead sales efforts, he thought of me. The timing coincided with my own shifting gears, and having always been interested in Fireclay, I thought it would be a fun adventure. Since joining Fireclay, I have seen the company triple in sales, personnel, and output. It has been wonderful to see how successful a small US manufacturer can be by following core values to create unique products. management, product development and design, and certainly sales!
– Bill Palmer, Commercial Sales
Image: Bill replicating the CA state Capitol building while at Heath 1981