Mary Law has been a functional potter for over 45 years. She apprenticed to Byron Temple and received an MFA in Ceramics from Alfred University. She has taught ceramics at Alfred University, San Jose State University, California College of the Arts, Haystack, Anderson Ranch and Penland School of Crafts. For the past 25 years she has taught ceramics part-time at Contra Costa College, and recently also at Diablo Valley College. She lives and has her studio in Berkeley, California, and has shown her work internationally.
I have always been primarily a functional potter. I flirted with sculptural work while in graduate school, and enjoyed doing it, but came back "home" to the strong tradition of making pots the following year. I acquired those skills initially at Penland, studying with Karen Karnes and Byron Temple, and then in greater depth as an apprentice to Byron. A later influence was Betty Woodman, who was an artist in residence at Alfred University during my graduate study there.
Function continues to provide me with that vital "spark" that makes me want to go into the studio week after week. Sometimes being a potter seems anachronistic, but I know there are many people out there who are moved by the feel of a handle on a cup or the way a plate rim frames a meal--and who want well-made, inspired pots around them on a daily basis. They, and my own similar appreciation of my friends' pots, keep me engaged.
Within the parameters of function, I am drawn to form before surface. For this reason I prefer to fire in a sodium vapor kiln, where the flame tends to enhance the form. When I glaze fire, I gravitate towards rich monochrome surfaces, like shino, celadon and temoku.
The pots I refer to as “house pots” were inspired by photographs I saw over 40 years ago of West African granaries made of adobe, often with thatched roofs. I carried these images in my head for many years, and finally they began to appear in loose translation in my work in 1984. I continue to be excited by the seemingly endless variations on the form.
I hope my pots reflect my pottery heritage, as I see it. From Byron Temple, who was my main influence, I gained a strong sense of form, the worth of making pots for everyday use, and a love of fresh-looking, quickly made pots and clean lines; from Betty Woodman, the thrill and spontaneity of drastically altering the wet pot on the wheel; and from Karen Karnes, an appreciation of the quiet strength a pot can exude.