Mary Fox Ceramic Artist - Victoria, Canada

You comment that your work is ‘original art work to inspire functional wares to enhance your eating experience’, enhance on this comment.

To me, there is nothing nicer than using handmade dishes to eat or drink from. Though I no longer need to create functional wares, as I could make my living solely from my decorative works, I can’t imagine that a day would come when I would stop creating dishes for my table and yours. I think this quote from me sums it up: “When working on vessels created to adorn our tables, I derive pleasure from knowing that through the subtle intimacy that grows from their daily use, these pieces will become treasures in people’s lives.”
Peasant Ware

Peasant Ware

You work in both glass and ceramics expand on how you keep a balance?

Can you explain how you divide your time between the two mediums within your studio?

I started interpreting my forms in glass a few years ago.  Working with glass blowers, Lisa Samphire and Jay MacDonell, has been inspiring and a lot of fun. There are forms that I have been able to explore with glass that I would have found challenging to throw. The more I create, the more ideas I come up with – one thing leads to another.

Glass Torpedo

Glass, Torpedo Form, H 60cm

The glass work has led me to create slip cast chalices and has also inspired brighter, more colourful glazes. It’s easy to divide my time between the two mediums as I can’t blow very often so plan things around those dates. After the blow sessions, there is a lot of cold work that still needs to be done. It can be a few months before I get my hands on the pieces and start the process of finding the right rocks to mount them on. This is the time that I find most inspiring as I finally get to see the chalice finished, rising out of its rock base like a flower. The Torpedo forms have a different vibe to me; those feel like organic eruptions from the earth.

Rock Flower

Glass, Chalice mounted in rock, H 39cm

You make non-functional forms that you refer to as Chalices, drawing on the historical symbolism of a chalice, discuss this aspect of your work. 

The Chalice form is one of my earliest inspirations. As a young child, I went to mass with my family every Sunday and though I found the service to be boring, I would always wake up and pay attention during the offertory. I suppose it was the physical beauty of the chalice that drew me, but part of that beauty was how the energy of the priest changed during this part of the service. This is when the priest is, I think, most in tune with his god. I could feel the focus and reverence. After the offertory, the chalice would be lovingly cleaned and polished, adding more beauty to the ritual. Chalices for me represent offerings; interestingly when I looked up the definition of chalice I find it also referred to as ‘cup of a flower’.

Chalice mounted in rock by Mary Fox

Chalice mounted in rock, H 38 cm

Explain your work that has been commissioned and is heading to Singapore.

Design brief

This has been a fun commission that involved a fair bit of discussion back and forth to settle on the final form. The client had requested 4 bottle vases like the image I use on my business card.

I made this vase in 2005 and though it may appear large in the photo, it is only about 7 inches tall. The clients wanted a height of at least 14 inches which would have meant working with a lot of weight. I realized that throwing it in one piece wouldn’t get them the height they wanted so I suggested I make the vase in sections and go for a slightly taller neck to get the desired height.Creating Bottle Vases for Singapore client  

Quantity of the commission

I made a few vases in slightly different styles and we settled on this one. Throwing four pieces the same height and form is always a challenge, even more so when you are doing it in sections. I ended up creating 6 so that if any problems arose in the glazing I would have back up pieces.

Bottle Vases with crawl glaze applied

 Colours used

The colour of slip needed to be tweaked to get the right tone for them. The first tests were too dark a blue so I made extra batches till I got the colour they desired.

Bottle Vases

 Technique used

Throwing in sections is a great way to get extra height. The bottom section was 10lbs, then left to stiffen up a bit before a 2 1/2lb donut of clay was added and the tall neck thrown. The bottom was trimmed by turning the vase upside down in a trimming chuck and very carefully the foot was made. When these bottle vases are upside down in the tall chuck it is the most unnerving part of the process for me as they kind of wobble around!  So far, I’ve not lost any.

#7 Trimming a Bottle Vase in a chuck

You work with your dogs in your studio with you.  Discuss how this works and the benefits you have by their company.

Ahhh the girls…I can’t imagine not having the company of my girls as they add so much to my life. I love how they will be fast asleep, and then when someone comes in they spring to life. After they have said their hellos, they start to play tug with one of their toys…this is all done around the customer’s or my feet! Then it’s back to their beds till something else exciting happens, or I go into another room. Amy follows me everywhere; she’s the little white Poodle/Bichon x.  Sasha waits to see what’s up. I find myself talking to them all the time and they are good listeners.

The Girls

Sasha loves to groom Amy, Amy puts up with it unless it goes on for too long!

As soon as I turn my wheel on, the girls are there taking up position under the throwing bench. Throwing at the wheel is my church, I get a whole different vibe off the girls when I am throwing. I think it is like church for them too. I suspect they feel from me something akin to what I felt from the priest at mass.

 Take on piece of your decorative art pieces and discuss.

Chalice mounted in Rock by Mary Fox

  Size: 32cm T x 31cm W

  Design: Chalice, wheel thrown

  Colour Dark Chocolate Brown outside, Yellows, Orange tones and Browns inside.

I call this Chalice, Molten Beginnings as the interior is evocative of lava flow and how it emerges from the rock reinforces that feeling for me. 

Your personal response to your Sculptural pieces this piece.

I have decided to talk about 2 sculptures and their commonalities. My approach to sculpting is very different to how I am when I’m throwing. The sculptures take me over and I work each day on them until I run out of energy. When sculpting it’s pretty much, eat, drink, sleep, work…

Casscading Tidal Pools

Casscading Tidal Pools H 42 cm W 70cm

The common thread in my sculptures is the flowing movement. Here on Vancouver Island we have beaches with beautiful sandstone formations that have been created over time by the constant erosion of water. The Cascading Tidal Pools sculpture series is my interpretation of that.


Casscading Tidal Pools H 42 cm W 70cm

The Valentine Vase series is inspired by the shapeliness of the female form and love. I go over and over the body of the piece creating the flowing lines, thinking about beauty and love all the while. To date, I have done 4 versions of the Valentines Vases and each one has sold immediately. I think the love and beauty that I focus on while creating these sculptures resonates in the work and people can feel it.

Valentine Vase #3

Valentine, Vase #3. H 53 cm

Explain the importance of having an excellent working relationship with the galleries who represent your work? 

I enjoy working with Designers and Galleries.  I see it very much as a joint Endeavor and I do what I can to make things as easy and professional as I can. I do all my photography in-house so have the added advantage of being able to photograph the work for the galleries. This saves them a lot of time and makes sure that the images that are being used are ones that I am happy with. More work for me, but well worth it.

My customers often ask how it works commission wise with galleries and are often surprised when they learn it is a 50% commission. They and some artists feel this is too high a rate. I disagree, I understand where they are coming from as they see the creating of the work as more valuable, but what they often don’t think to take into account, are all the costs involved in running a gallery. The gallery has a lot of responsibilities and their expenses aren’t small. Once they have covered the rent, salaries, utilities, insurance, exhibition costs and more, I don’t think there is a lot left over. One of my mottos, and I have many, is ‘everyone needs to make money’. Keeping this in mind, if I get a referral from a gallery that represents me, I send a referral fee back to the gallery. It is a small thing to do but shows that we are in this business relationship together.

Primorial Beauty, Winchester Galleries 2016

Primal Beauty, Winchester Gallery, 2016

Explain the most important factor you have learnt from the past year and how you have implemented it into your art practice or intend to.

Well, that is certainly an interesting question and gave me pause. After much thought, I realize it is how my approach to my work is changing in fundamental ways. I started out as a production potter and turned into an artist along the way. I remember many years ago saying to my late wife “wouldn’t it be amazing if I could create whatever I wanted to all the time and it would sell?”  I am 57 now, have built the home / gallery of my dreams and this is the sweet time. I have people visiting my gallery from all over the world and everything I make sells eventually. I no longer need to rely on other galleries to make a living and this is very freeing. I really can do whatever I want creatively and the coolest part of it all is, that after all these years of potting, I have so much skill in my hands that there isn’t much I don’t think I could do.

I am focused on how fortunate I am and mindful of what an amazing time in my creative life this is. I do at times find the constant flow of creative ideas a bit much; there is so much I want to do…but I am an army of one!  So, I do a lot of self-talk, reminding myself that this really is a great place to be in and to take it one day at a time. There is always more, it will never end.

Mary Fox in her Gallery

Mary Fox in her gallery

Contact details:

Mary Fox 

 Mary Fox, Victoria, Canada

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April, 2017