When I drove up to the entrance to Plum Tree, there was a sign by the road that said "Glick." After parking the car in the driveway, I went through the open gate and walked up to his showroom. I took out my camera and began taking a few pictures of the showroom (which was closed at the time). "Can I help you," I heard behind me. I turned around to see an Alfred Stieglitz look-a-like who was eyeing me a little suspiciously. "Yeah," I said, "Are you John Glick? I want to buy a piece of your pottery." "Well," he said with a smile on his face, "Let me show you around." He opened up the showroom and turned on the lights.
The showroom is a great space for displaying his pottery and I wandered around looking at everything while we talked. He told me that he was getting ready to sell Plum Tree and would be moving to California to be closer to his kids. Then he showed me a promotional piece for a retrospective of his work that will be held at Cranbrook (his alma mater) in the summer of 2016. For the last several decades, he's put aside over 1,000 pots that he considers some of his best work. A curator from California was brought in to look at the collection and from this she chose 250 pots to be included in the show. Most of the remaining 700 pieces are being offered for sale, so now would be a good time to contact John if you're looking for something special. I bought a beautiful large platter, but the pieces I liked the most, his massive bowls (24"+), were way out of my price range, around $2,000+. He has many smaller pieces that are quite beautiful for less than $100. Just check out Plum Tree's website (www.plumtreepottery.com) or give John a call (248-476-4875).
I asked John how he was able to make a go of it financially as a potter and he said two things were especially important. First, he found a way to provide steady income by developing a niche that guaranteed steady sales. That niche for him was selling dinnerware sets. He was always famously behind in his orders, as much as seven years or so from what I've read. Second, over time he cultivated relationships with collectors who became more focused on collecting his work. These collectors gave him a green light for doing more creative work because they were interested in spending more money for pieces that took more time to make. As an example, he showed me a long tray, at least 20 inches long, that he was getting ready to wrap and send to a collector in Taiwan. He told me this man had been seriously collecting his work for over 20 years and had purchased over 500 pieces!
When I found out John was getting ready to sell Plum Tree, I asked him if he would show me around. He owns about 1.5 acres and his house, showroom, soda kiln building and studio take up about half that space. First he took me into his house where I got to see all of the tile work he'd done in the kitchen, around fireplaces, and in bathrooms. He also has a large collection of pots that were gifts from other potters. Next we visited his soda/salt kiln which is housed in its own building. The third place, the main studio, is massive, more than 3,000 square feet if I remember correctly. He had two large glost kilns in the studio, one propane and one gas, each of them much bigger than our kiln at HPG. In the second floor of the studio, John has a permanent set up for taking pictures of his work and a small gallery where his very best (and most expensive) pieces are on display. I noticed rows of saw horses that were set up in the first floor and John explained that this is how he would make plates. He would set up a row or two of plates on boards that went across the saw horses. He would go from plate to plate with glaze or slip and make his decorations on each one in turn.
One of the most interesting things John shared with me was about the young potters who worked alongside of him for so many years. He told me that after working by himself at Plum Tree for 13 years, he decided he wanted to work alongside of someone else. So for the last 37 years, he had a different young potter each year working at the studio. They did their own work but helped John with things like making clay and firing kilns. He cherished these relationships and I'm sure it was beneficial for both parties.
So, I enjoyed my visit with John. I got to ask him a million questions and learned a great deal, I got a tour of Plum Tree Pottery, and now I own a piece of his work. Hopefully I'll be back in Michigan next summer to see his retrospective. By the way, Cranbrook will be publishing a catalog to accompany the show and it will include images of all 250 pieces. They're also hoping it will become a traveling exhibition so it may be coming to a museum near you.