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'wise' woman/mother artist

updated wed 12 nov 97


Marion Barnes-Schwartz. on tue 11 nov 97

I am returning home, passionately, to clay.

I first started working with clay in the mid sixties, without a 'real'
studio; many of those years preparing for craft shows by throwing pots in
one room of my apartment and transporting the dry green ware, carefully
wrapped in newspaper, to my parent's basement where I had a kiln. I finally
got kiln and wheel in the same locale - the grimy part of a neighbor's
basement, where in order to fire my electric kiln I had to keep a fan aimed
at the fuse box to keep the main fuse to the house from blowing.

I continued with my passion to a few other basements (where at least I could
fire my kiln in good conscience without worrying about blowing the main). In
the late 70's I started working in a stained glass studio, renting part of
the basement for my clay studio. Although I never stopped my passion with
clay, my pregnancy and resulting bad back kept me from the wheel for a while.
Connections at the stained glass studio led to stained glass commissions, so
after the birth of my first child 13 years ago (at the age of 39) I found
myself in business as a stained glass artist. Which I still am. I do mostly
residential commissions and I love my work. But my passion for clay never
died and I continued working with clay throughout those years, sometimes
incorporating clay and glass in sconces, etc.

With my husband's upcoming early retirement from education my passion for
clay has begun taking on a new life. By June, we hope, we will have sold our
Victorian home in a suburban town 12 miles outside of New York City and we'll
be moving to our home in Delaware County, New York - old dairy farm country.
I already have a beautiful studio there, built a few years ago to
accommodate my stained glass work, which is slowly being taken over my by
continuing work in clay. I have retrieved from the basement my old piles of
Ceramics Monthly, Ceramic Review and Studio Potter, poring over each and
every issue after the youngest child is fast asleep. I have always wanted to
do reduction firing but never had the place suitable to build a kiln, until
now. There are no longer economic restraints. We'll live just fine on my
husband's pension as we each pursue our passions, while the kids go off to
school. I'm not even considering doing craft shows again. I won't be faced
again with removing pots from a too hot kiln, wrapping them in newspaper and
loading them into my car, smelling the smoldering newspaper fire started from
the hot pots as I rush off to the latest show. But I will show in galleries,
or sell directly from my studio. I will make clay for myself. I've started
tiles for the new mud room floor, and will be making extruded tiles as cap
molding for the new wainscoting. I've been testing glazes made from the ashes
of our wood burning stove. I've never before had the luxury of working just
for myself.

Returning home, to clay, is a joy, a passionate joy, intensified by this time
in my life. Although still with minor children living at home we're
"retiring" to a new life; with a studio that no longer has seeping concrete
basement walls as a view, but instead the delicious view of the mountains and
the valley. And a spot, yet to be cleared, waiting for the building of a new

Little did I envision when I started my journey with clay over 30 years ago
that it wouldn't be until my early 50's that I would have the studio of my
dreams and a life devoted to family and clay.