Bill Shillalies – Working with the Elements of Nature

By Caitlyn Shea

billAs a student at Adelphi University I knew Bill Shillalies as an almost permanent fixture in the ceramics studio. He would be teaching, assisting students that were struggling to make their pottery stand up straight, or watching over the huge Anagama kiln. I could never fit his class into my schedule but every time I would be hollowing out a sculpture or standing over buckets of glaze with a worried look, he would appear as if by magic and give me practical guidance so that I could come to a good decision on my own.

I vividly remember seeing a new sculpture hanging in the studio one day. bill3In structure it resembled an iconic beehive. It was a larger piece and many students took a break from their work to crowd around it. Upon closer examination, the surface had a rough organic white texture floating and obscuring the view of a deep dense blue shine. Immediately it took on the enormity of constellations in the night sky, yet still made one contemplate organic and earthly form.  It was unmistakably Bill’s signature aesthetic.

Bill5Conjuring elements of nature, Bill is influenced heavily by his time spent outdoors hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and being near lakes and beaches. He says that he is fascinated by seeing his outdoor works relate with their surroundings. He states “Every time I put them down on the ground it is different, I like to see them change with the seasons.” Elements like snow, dew drops, and rain play with the surface of his sculptures in their respective environments. His wall hangings and pottery also brings a sense of the outdoors to the indoors.

Bill takes pleasure in the surprise elements of sculpture. “I enjoy the things that I have no control over.  Sometimes it hurts and I have to do it over again, but then I might get it to where it makes me smile.” He is most easily defined by his passion for making new work and for his delight in being surrounded by excited sculptors at Adelphi University and Nassau County Community College.

When I asked him where his passion came from he answered:

“Passion is the key word! I was doing very poorly in school because I could not read well or spell. Teachers just did not understand me and wrote me off. I met a teacher whom realized I had dyslexia and another that suggested I major in Ceramics. My life changed and I have been making art every day to keep my hands moving. Lucky me, I love teaching, so my life is whole!”

During SPARKBOOM‘s Kickoff event, “Beards, Bards and BOOM”, Bill Shillalies will have two sculptures in the Walt Whitman Birthplace garden. He has left them untitled and open to the viewer’s own interpretation.  Check it out on June 21st! Click here to RSVP.


Caitlyn SImagehea is a professional fine art painter. She studied Studio Art and Art History at Pratt Institute and Skidmore College before graduating with a BFA from Adelphi University in 2011. Outside of her studio, Shea is captivated by the pluralism that exists in art today, and the ways in which individual artists define themselves and their practices in order to carve out a unique career. By interviewing participating SPARKBOOMTM artists, Shea looks to develop a dialogue between practicing artists and an audience that does not only include other art experts, but people who have a newfound urge to become involved in experiencing the work of fresh, exciting artists.

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