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The Ceramics of Mary Fox

By Robert Amos July 7, 2003

} The Ceramics of Mary Fox 'The most beautiful shapes are the simplest. Yet these are often the most difficult to produce. I delight in the challenge of creating contemporary vessels based on classic shapes. When you are working with pure form, the tiniest fraction of an inch at any spot will make the difference between just a vase and a vase full of life.' Mary Fox Mary Fox has worked in her pottery studio in Ladysmith since 1994, and she told me she loves living in that community. 'It's like Victoria when I was growing up,' she commented. 'It's sort of a throwback. I love being at home. If you're an artist, that's where it's at.' Fox has been developing unique and earthy ceramic chalices. These large open vessels are intricately textured with pebbly organic surfaces. Technically, they are wheel-thrown in as many as three parts and then finished with an oxidation-fired lithium compound crawl glaze. The chalice here depicted, which does not have the crackled surface typical of the 'crawl glaze', is set into a piece of local sandstone as a base. 'Chalice': 2002 Sydney Myer Fund International Ceramics Award exhibition, Shepparton Art Gallery, Shepparton, Australia. Earthenware, lithium compound, oxidation, 33.2cm high From Ladysmith her pots go out into the world. This summer she is part of the display in the 53rd International Competition of Contemporary Ceramics just opened at the Museo Internazionale d¹elle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy ( www.micfaenza.org.). Fox submitted a tall, elegant earthenware vase of original design and decorative effect. It seems to embody the exhibit's theme, 'the shape between continuity and innovation'. And shape is what it's all about. 'For me,' she declared, 'form is Number One.' Her piece will, at the request of the Museum, become part of the Museum's permanent collection when the show closes on December 31. 'Earth Offering' Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Earthenware, lithium compound on exterior, crawl glaze on interior, multi fired, oxidation, mounted in Vancouver Island sandstone, 26 cm high, 24.5cm diameter. The Museo Internazionale d¹elle Ceramiche is located in Faenza, a city which gave its name to faience, the tin-glazed earthenware whose decorative overglaze patterns were the finest European ceramics before porcelain came from China. The museum is perhaps the premier museum of ceramics in the world. Since 1938, the 53rd International Competition of Contemporary Ceramics has been held to award the Premio Faenza. Last October an international jury met in Faenza and selected 51 works of art by 37 artists among 1203 who took part to this event. 'Rainforest' 'Rainforest' detail earthenware, lithium compound, raku fired, 33.5cm high. 'When I first began working with clay, I thought there was no vessel more beautiful than the vase,' Fox has written. 'Over the years as I developed my own forms, I have been drawn to creating vases that have a graceful flow and lift to them. The image of a long-necked bird or a classical dancer is often with me when creating these pieces.' Also this summer, Fox's pottery is included in 'Genius Loci' at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ontario, (June 7 - August 31, 2003). The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery ( www.canadianclayandglass.ca ) is Canada¹s national institution for the exhibition of contemporary cultural material executed in the silica media - ceramics, blown and stained glass, and enamel. To celebrate its 10th anniversary the Gallery invited 42 Canadian artists to submit works created to highlight the unique architectural features of their award-winning facility. A full catalogue of the show is available on-line. 'Desert Riches':Genius Loci exhibition, Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Earthenware, lithium compound, oxidation, mounted in Vancouver Island sandstone, 32.5cm high. The artists invited to participate were asked to choose unlikely and out of the way places in the gallery space to situate their work. Nothing could be placed on the floor. According to the curator, the placing of art in various locations where viewers wouldn't necessarily expect to see it 'increases our sense of anticipation as one wonders what will be happened upon next.' This sort of top-level recognition is not new to Fox. Last year she was one of 57 international artists at 2002 International Ceramics Award, Shepparton Art Gallery, Shepparton Australia, the largest international ceramics exhibition in the southern hemisphere. She also showed her pots at the late lamented Canadian Craft and Design Museum in Vancouver and, closer to home, she has participated in Metchosin's annual Fired Up! show. 'Molten Beginnings' 'Vase': 'Vase' The Shape Between Continuity and Innovation: A Selection from the Countries taking part to the 53rd International Competition of Contemporary Ceramics, Museo Internationzale Delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy. Earthenware, underglaze, crawl glaze, multiple firings, oxidation, 46cm high. On an ongoing basis, a selection of Fox's distinctive work holds pride of place in its own lovely display cabinet in the centre of the elegant Peninsula Gallery (#100 - 2506 Beacon Ave. Sidney, (250) 655-1282 or Toll-Free (877) 787-1896). She's the only ceramic artist whose creations are available at that gallery, where her refined forms provide an intriguing contrast to the paintings by Robert Bateman and Carol Evans. Mary Fox doesn't travel, but you're invited to her studio to see her full line of wares. It's located in Ladysmith at 321-3rd Avenue (250-245-3778) and is open daily (except Monday) from 1 to 5 pm. You can contact Mary Fox at mfp@islandnet.com for more information. ___________________________________________ Copyright © 2003 Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B.C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at www.robertamos.com