In her case, art came as a birthday commemoration. “For our fortieth birthdays, a friend and I gave ourselves clay lessons at a city-funded facility a few blocks from my house in Austin. After becoming addicted, I took classes at the Southwest Craft Center, now the Southwest School of Art, in San Antonio, which offered a wider range of courses and experience,” says Fischer.
Soon her newfound skills led to the purchase of acreage west of Austin and the construction of a house and studio. There she began building houses of clay. Using construction techniques including slab and extruded pieces, the structures can be enhanced with stains, glaze, colored slip and designs. Fischer explains, “Obviously, architecture is a major influence, but so are patterns found everywhere. Traveling is always good and seeing things not seen before is a real boon.” That can include graffiti in Rome, images from antique books, old postcards or photographs she’s taken and transferred to her ceramic works.
Original and unique describe Fischer’s clay houses. “Nothing I make exists elsewhere. I don’t make architectural models. I guess you could say they are compilations of styles, but I don’t set out with that in mind. The exception might be grain elevators which are the most interesting things on the landscape on the high plains,” she says. As artistic as they are, Fischer is practical, “I simply try to put something together that works and that interests me. When I go to make a piece, I am not thinking about truth and beauty. I am trying to keep it from collapsing.”
The Texas native’s path has included multiple careers as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, as a draftsman and cartographer for Travis County and then for environmental consultants. But her work as a ceramicist is one of inspiration, “Just about everything in life influences my craft. One has to separate things, but actually putting parts of your life in boxes is an exercise in futility. I make what I do in clay because I want to. Talking about the why and wherefore usually means taking liberties with the truth. What is true one day may not be the next. What you swear by one day, you curse the next. As with all things in nature, a state of flux is the rule and means all is well.”
Fischer’s work is highly collected and available at galleries nationwide. They can be found in Texas at: Mockingbird Hand Prints in the Blue Star Art Complex in San Antonio; Assemblage Contemporary Craftsman Gallery in Buda and Art Connections Gallery in La Grange.
Mary F Fischer | maryffischer.com