Featured WPA Member ó Ed Arnold
Editorís Note: Each edition of the WPA Press will feature one club member. The goal of these brief interviews is to help us learn more about each other and our particular collecting interests. Ed and I had a chat in early December:
Ed has been a member of the Wisconsin Pottery Association (WPA) since August of 1997. He learned of and became interested in the WPA during the 1997 Show and Sale, which featured an exhibit of Wisconsin Potteries. Ed is a collector of Pittsville pottery and saw notices in multiple newspapers throughout southern and central Wisconsin for the '97 Show and Sale, noting that the exhibit would feature Wisconsin potteries. Knowing that there wasn't much information available on Pittsville and always looking for more pieces for his collection, Ed went to see the exhibit. And then he joined the club. At that 1997 WPA Show and Sale, Ed talked with Nicol Knappen, one of the charter members of the WPA. Ed mentioned to Nicol that he had a funeral card for Father Willitzer, the founder of the Pittsville, WI pottery. And we've at the WPA been learning about Pittsville ever since.
Ed says that he is strictly a pottery collector and doesn't frequent estate sales, but meeting other collectors in the WPA has helped his collection. He has purchased Pittsville pieces from other club members; Ed says that through the club he has enhanced his Pittsville collection and education. He pointed out that while there are no books available about Pittsville he has learned about pieces he didn't know existed by seeing pieces that other people have.
But actually, while gaining information about his favorite pottery, Mr. Arnold is doing much to enhance the WPA and its members information regarding this mid 1900's pottery, founded in Pittsville, WI by a Catholic priest.
As it turns out, Ed grew up in Pittsville, WI and was a parishioner of Father Willitzers'. As a boy in Pittsville, Ed and a friend would go to the pottery's dump, where they would play, pulling out broken pieces to take home and make flower pots of (we won't mention when this was or how old he was at this time, so as to not disclose his age, one of the agreements made before he consented to this interview...).
Ed moved on from those early "collecting" years to become an entomologist. Now retired, Ed worked for the State of Wisconsin, serving as the State apiarist for several years. Ed pointed out that bees have diseases, as cattle do, and need to be inspected. Bee keepers move their colonies south for the winter and there are inspections of these migratory bees to prevent diseases from spreading. Ed also worked with gyspy moth control programs, which involved hanging traps in Christmas tree orchards. Those of us that like to tromp through Christmas tree farms to pick out a tree each December appreciate that these orchards are still filled with trees!
I personally met Ed when the WPA convened at the Monona Terrace. I arrived at the meeting to learn that there was a man that had inquired about 'Kenefick' after seeing my nametag on the table. When we bumped into each other later that night, Ed mentioned that he was a Delta Theta Sigma member and knew my father and uncle from the fraternity here in Madison. (It can be frightening to meet people that knew your parents during their undergraduate days, but this was pre1960s, and to date Ed hasn't revealed anything about my father that I hadn't already learned. )
Father Willitzer started the pottery in approximately 1931, to provide employment opportunities for local people. The pottery was in existance until 1943 although it went through some tough financial times even during that period.
Ed claims to have first taken an interest in collecting Pittsville pottery when he saw a piece during his father's funeral. The Pittsville funeral home made it a practice to display pottery owned by local people and so had a few pieces on exhibit sort of the local museum or archive. Ed says that there is a pottery museum in Pittsville, but that he has more pieces in his personal collection than the hometown museum has. Of course as is frequently the case, Ed points out that the Pittsville locals are really not very interested in the pot tery, other than as a source of employment while it was open. As with Pauline pottery from Edgerton, WI, even today there is not a lot of Pittsville pottery in Pittsville.
Kari Kenefick, WPA Press Editor