Ray and Tami Bier met while working at Todd Warner’s studio in Bay Shore, Michigan over twenty years ago. Both had various studio jobs, which laid the groundwork for building their own studio years later. They married shortly after and began their quest to become independent craftsmen producing their own line of stoneware pottery.
For many years, they pounded the beats doing art fairs and selling small vases to floral shops throughout Michigan.
They traveled as far as Coconut Grove, Florida to Davenport, Iowa. During this period the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair was their main selling venue. Much of their time was spent perfecting their techniques and honing their skills to develop marketable items with Tami learning to sculpt clay and Ray perfecting his throwing skills. It was really a time of growth with a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears as they built their small business.
When they decided to start a family, the urge to stay off the road and raise their children was strong. They knew they needed to find a permanent location to start to build their business. Judy and Norman Brumm, who had a successful business in Norwood at that time, were friends of Ray’s and Judy suggested that he stop in at Staffel’s Pottery. Bonnie Staffel was inspiring as well as encouraging.
The seed was planted and Ray and Tami began their quest to find the right location. The old Hilton Schoolhouse lay vacant for years until the Bier’s, along with their partners at that time, decided to go for it. There was much to be done that first year before opening the doors but with everyone pitching in it worked out. Fortunately, the Schoolhouse was in the Charlevoix area, which was a growing tourist destination for thousands of people. It took only a matter of time to create a dedicated following of customers by advertising and hard work.
Today, over thirty years later, the Bier’s are the sole owners and have built a strong year round business. Still carrying the artwork of their former partners, along with over forty other artists, the variety offered is stunning. The old schoolhouse has blossomed with a new and vibrant life. The Gallery exudes the energy and enthusiasm of the owners as well as the artists represented.