Faced with difficulty, an Artisan at Work finds solutions
28 March 2022
Based in Ladysmith, in the heart of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, Mary Fox of Mary Fox Pottery has devoted her life to pottery, spending decades developing her skills. Passionate about the beauty in everything, she enjoys letting her imagination run wild to create surprising and charming pottery. She considers herself a “self-taught explorer” potter, an amazing title that aptly evokes the desire and curiosity that consumes Mary when it comes to pottery.
Before she became an internationally renowned artist, she faced several significant challenges, including finding an affordable studio with sufficient space to house her studio and gallery in high-priced British Columbia. In addition, as an artist’s income is often fickle, especially in the beginning, home ownership is not easy, nor is the purchase of professional equipment. But Mary persisted and it paid off.
A visit to Mary’s studio gives you an idea of the extent of her passion, her personal history with this art that has kept her alive and vibrant for forty years. Although her works are exhibited all over the world, Mary is now more interested in meeting her visitors and passing on her know-how. This is why she has joined the Artisans at work network as the pottery ÉCONOMUSÉE®. The main mission of Artisans at work is to preserve intangible cultural heritage and to promote traditional local know-how.
Recognizing the challenges facing young potters, Mary also launched the Mary Fox Legacy Project, with the idea of keeping her home in Ladysmith as a home for emerging potters after her retirement.
“It’s very difficult for a young artist to get started. Ceramics is not like painting; you need a lot of equipment and space. Also, it takes many years to hone your skills. It doesn’t happen overnight. Young potters constantly tell me about the difficulties they have in finding studio space,” says Mary.
This two-year artist residency programme will give a potter under the age of 30 the opportunity to develop his or her craft with this support. This project is a wonderful way to preserve the knowledge and skills passed down through generations, and to help emerging artists make a living from their passion and talent.
“I see the Legacy Project as a chance for a young artist to have the time and space to develop his skills and live the life of a studio potter. They would be able to sell their work through the gallery and at the end of their residency they should know if the life of a studio potter is for them. If so, they will hopefully have saved enough money to create their own pottery and build their own legacy,” continues Mary.
The Artisans at work network is proud to support Mary Fox in her desire to preserve and pass on the intangible heritage of pottery skills and knowledge, and thus help an emerging artist make a living from his passion and talent.
In order to support her legacy project with her own funds, Mary Fox has just published My Life as a Potter, a book that marks Mary’s creative and courageous journey through compelling stories and remarkable photographs.
“This book is much more than a memoir and a manual on ‘how to make and promote your work.’ Unintentionally, Mary Fox has written a cultural history of pottery making in British Columbia,” writes Maria Tippett in The Ormsby Review.
Whether you’re a potter or not, this book is all about following your passion, overcoming challenges, finding your path, growing and thriving along the way. It is available now worldwide via online ordering and in your favourite local bookstore.
You can also support the Legacy Project and Mary Fox’s vision by making a donation on her official website.