Canadian potter Mary Fox shares her professional and personal experiences and insights in her memoir, Mary Fox, My Life as a Potter published by Harbour Publishing. Fox is known for two astonishingly different bodies of work; her elegantly simple functional ware, and her sculptural chalices with soaring stems mounted in found rocks. She began her life in clay as a teen. During her early years, she focused on production pottery, masterfully throwing matching mugs, bowls, dinner plates and earning a living.
Tragedy struck when she was just thirty and coming into her own creatively. She and her beloved partner Heather were incapacitated with a debilitating disease, later diagnosed as myalgic encephalomyelitis (sometimes called chronic fatigue syndrome). Fox was unable to work for five years. Gradually, she regained much of her health and could make pots again but Heather’s decline required hours of draining care- giving. Heather died in 2007.
The pain of illness and loss had a profound impact on Fox, which she frankly discusses and confronts in the book. Her focus though, is sharing with the reader what she was making, what she was thinking about in the studio, the various processes she was experimenting with, and the risks she was taking. We see her build her studios, raise her house to two floors, add a gallery space, and buy and learn to fire a computerized Blaauw gas kiln. She frees herself from decorating her tableware, even though it is popular, falls in love with lithium glazes, shifts her selling strategy, and collects interesting rocks to use as pedestals. She pushes both herself and her clay to make ever taller and thinner stems for her sculptural chalices. Eventually, she collaborates with glass blowers. Committed to giving younger potters and future generations of potters time, space and a good footing, she has begun The Legacy Project. Her home, equipped studio and gallery, supported by an endowment she is working to fund, will be a place where young potters can come and work for a few months unencumbered and undistracted.
Fox calls this book My Life as a Potter but she could easily have called it Adventures in Clay. It is a chronicle of her artistic journey. We have too few potter’s memoirs, I think. This is a good start.
Mary Fox: My Life As A Potter, Stories and Techniques