Mary Leigh Miller

I received a BA in Applied Arts from Carleton College in Minnesota and went on to teach art for a number of years in various public schools in the Philadelphia, PA area where I grew up. Clay didn’t really enter my life until my mid-twenties; before that I mostly painted in my free time. My mother was my inspiration. She had taken up ceramics at some point while I was off at college and carried this interest to our family summer home in Southeastern Ontario, where she set up an “outdoor studio.” Her equipment included two kick wheels (hand built by my father) that sat out under the trees overlooking a lake. She mixed her own clay and glazes from dry ingredients and fired everything in a small electric kiln. During the first few summers I spent up there I started playing around with throwing and hand building. This eventually led to taking ceramics classes, workshops and getting involved at local arts centers in the various places I’ve lived, culminating with my move to the Walnut Creek area in the mid 80’s.

I love the creative process and am particularly drawn to clay because of its tactile qualities and plasticity. I am also passionate about texture and organic form. The expressiveness I can achieve with clay inspires me to try as many different methods as I can. I enjoy both wheel throwing and hand building.

I get a lot of inspiration as well as plenty of throwing and glazing tips from my fellow potters. Although I have a fairly well-equipped studio at my house, I prefer working at Walnut Creek’s Community Arts Ceramic Studio where my focus can be totally on clay. It’s a wonderful, relaxing experience for me – an escape from all the other parts of my life where I can get ideas and stimulation from fellow classmates. My instructors have also been a fabulous inspiration to my creative productivity.

The work accompanying this bio are all Raku, a fast-fire process that relies on pulling pieces directly from a hot kiln and smoking them in a trashcan. The copper lusters typical of this process are achieved through oxygen reduction in the smoking step. The pieces are generally non-functional.

The Raku shadow box pieces are made from a plaster mold of my own face and designed to be wall-mounted.

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