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Marianne Brown had her first experience with clay when she was nine-years-old and took a class at the Indianapolis Art League. By the time Brown was in high school, she had already done reduction and salt and pit firings, so the clay teacher let her help load the kilns. After high school Brown tried being a dental technician for a while, but clay was her true love.
Brown started building her portfolio and looking around at colleges with good art departments. For freshman year, Brown went to Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn. By the following September she had transferred to Memphis College of Art in Memphis. In 1989 Brown graduated with a B.F.A. and a major in ceramics. During the summer following sophomore year she spent several weeks at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. She could afford it only because of a program Penland offered where she worked for the school in exchange for paying only half of the tuition. Brown said of the experience “I was lucky and got the job of loading the kilns in the clay department.”
After graduation, Brown started experimenting with porcelain and Mason stains. Her fish series included bowls pieced together to create an image and vases carved with the sgraffito technique. But each piece was very labor intensive and she burned out pretty quickly on that series. Brown then jumped to the opposite end of the spectrum and started firing raku and throwing everything on the wheel. Not only did the method change drastically, but the inspiration did also. Architecture of any kind influenced the shapes she was throwing. That phase was even shorter than the fish phase because she rarely ended up with something she was satisfied with.
Switching to stoneware was the answer. Throwing on the wheel was her true love and with stoneware she could make the functional ware that paid the bills and more sculptural pieces for her own sanity. By late 1990, Brown had become a juried member of Tennessee Association of Craft Artists (TACA) and was doing her first arts and crafts show. For the next five years she kept a day job and worked in the studio at night.
Then in 1996, Brown took the big jump. Brown moved to Kentucky and started working full-time in clay. A year and a half later, Brown was juried into the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program and started doing art shows and exhibits throughout Kentucky and the surrounding states. In 2001, Brown was juried into the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen. By that time she had added one more facet to her work, textured decoration made from clay stamps. The earliest of her stamps were individual images, then to save time they became cylindrical in shape so the texture could be rolled onto the surface. After a while the stamps became larger and more intricate in design. Now Brown has over 100 different stamped patterns to work with including several developed with an equestrian theme because of living in the Bluegrass area and the Equestrian Games which came to Kentucky in 2010. Other categories of Brown’s stamps include: ancient, aquatic, Celtic/Christian, natural and recycled to name a few. The soft colors of the glazes Brown used in the beginning have slowly been replaced but not eliminated by bolder colors by the method of firing the kiln.
Now the stamped decorations have really become Brown’s trademark. Since first using the stamps in her work she has done a lot of research on symbols that have been used throughout history. What Brown found most surprising is how often a symbol will remain the same from century to century and continent to continent but the meaning changes dramatically.
Gallery 104 is owned and operated by the Arts Association of Oldham County. It is located at 104 E. Main Street, La Grange. For more information, contact Kathy Dowling, Executive Director, 502-222-3822 or by email at email@example.com . Visit the gallery’s website at www.gallery104.org.
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