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Shape Shifter

Shape Shifter
PHOTOGRAPHER: 
September 2019

Maria White crafts stunning abstract ceramic art 



A ceramist and documentarian, White recently released a film on her mentor, Micheal Sherill, now on view at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery.

The ampersand seems essential to Maria White’s life work: clay & camera, East Coast & West, light & dark, maker & mother. This Las Vegas-born, Summerville-raised ceramist-cum-documentarian revels in the interplay of pottery with everything from film to philanthropy. Born to an artistic mother who designed and sewed clothes and a graphic designer father who also painted, White has creativity in her blood. After discovering a passion for clay while at Winthrop University, she has spent the past two decades refining her delicate craft from Charleston to Los Angeles and back. White’s vessels are carefully carved into abstract renderings of natural textures, like the ripples of beach sand or the moon’s pocked surface. And thanks to her Hollywood connections, they’ve found an appreciative audience both locally and with set designers who have used her pieces onscreen in Friends and La La Land.

Called to Clay: When I learned to throw and work on the wheel, I fell in love with the infinite possibilities of this medium. I wanted to learn how to create objects that are useful. I’ve been working with clay for 20 years, and I’m still challenged, humbled, and inspired by the material.

Molding of an Artist: After college, I studied with Michael Sherrill at Penland School of Craft and later became his studio assistant. He taught me that whatever you do, whether it’s pottery, film, or even being a parent, be present and do it to the best of your ability.

(Left) Kiln It - In ceramics, there are no guarantees. Even the most skilled artists can face heartbreak behind the oven door. All the more reason to appreciate ceramist Maria White’s delicate porcelain vessels textured to resemble organic forms; (right) Find White’s work at The Gibbes Museum gift shop and on her website, mariawhite.com.

Light Fantastic: I play with positive and negative space, often carving into my forms so that light can shine through and dance on a piece. Porcelain emits a beautiful warmth when lit. Ultimately, I’m striving for practical but beautiful work that adds to a space.

That's a Wrap: I was recently commissioned to make pieces as wrap presents for the creators and producers of Game of Thrones. It was an honor as I'm a huge fan of the show.

Filling Her Cup: Mugs for Moms combines my love of craft with community activism. After having children, I developed severe postpartum anxiety that led to depression. I'm fortunate that I got better and last year had the idea to sell handmade mugs from different makers to raise money and awareness for maternal mental health. Our first fundraiser earned $6,000 for Postpartum Support Charleston. Now I’m teaming up with artists to host this in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. 

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