A Master Potter Celebrates 50 Years in Clay

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

By Shelly Prevost

In the early 1960s, as a young lady raised in the South, Mary Law grew up addressing people as Sir and Ma’am. “I was used to telling my elders what they wanted to hear.”, Mary recalls. Those were times when women were expected to marry a nice man and raise a family. Very few women had careers. Sexism worked in Mary’s favor. “My brothers were expected to have a career, but I didn’t have too. I was allowed to take anything in school, but my brother couldn’t.”

Mary started college as a Humanities major with an emphasis on Foreign Language. She applied to Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. They asked for her portfolio, but she didn’t have one. They accepted her anyway. “I went there with no expectations, but it changed my life.”

One of Mary’s first ceramics teachers and a big influence on her was Karen Karnes. Karnes is internationally known, and her work is displayed in numerous galleries and permanent collections worldwide. While working together, Karnes said something to Mary that put her on a new path for the rest of her life. “Are you going to continue in clay?” Mary replied “Yeah, I guess so.” “Well good, I think you should.” Karnes said. As simple as that little bit of encouragement was, it was all that Mary needed to recognize in herself how much she really wanted to continue.

Mary remembers, “The first pot I felt really