Mary Lue Allen has worked with clay since 1975 when she was a senior in high school
After a career in education, Allen, a retired art teacher most recently at South Verde High School, creates pottery and is a photographer.
Although she had a photography exhibit at the Camp Verde Community Library from August 2018 until January 2019, it’s her pottery that has found a second home at the library.
“I asked Carson Ralston (library specialist, adult programs) if the niches on the stairway were available for artists to display in,” Allen recalled. “He asked (Library Director Kathy Hellman) for me, and I went through the jurying process with my clay artwork.”
Allen’s first pottery exhibit was from February through May 2019. As she took the exhibit down, Ralston told Allen she was welcome to continue showing her pottery at the library.
So Allen did continue, except that she swapped out the previous exhibit with different pieces she had created.
“When the end of August rolled around it was the same thing, so down came one display for another one to end at the end of December,” Allen said. “January (2020) brought another show that was to end in April, but the pandemic struck and the library was closed. When June rolled around, I asked Carson again if he wanted me to continue and he agreed, so another show went up to replace what was there.”
Allen’s current exhibit, Pandemic Projects, shows pottery she has made since April. It is her fifth consecutive four-month pottery exhibit at the library, an exhibit that will close on Oct. 31.
Allen has plenty of art supplies in her Camp Verde home. She also uses sketchpads to work on designs that adorn her pottery. One thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen has been using the supplies she has allowed to accumulate.
“I can go to another medium. I am not running out buying clay, for instance. I used all of my clay a few weeks ago and the pieces are in the finishing stages, but I have some paper I have had for a while so I am making monumental turtles with soft pastels, and monumental monarch butterflies. It has allowed me to use some of the supplies I have and I am having so much fun using them,” Allen said.
Her studio is the inside of a 1949 milk barn. In the studio, Allen creates wheel-thrown pottery, as well as glass beads. She also paints and draws, and photographs. But the clay influences her with its color and texture, Allen said.
“My finished pieces in red clay are usually not fully glazed, to better show the warmth of the clay,” Allen said. “I use many design techniques to finish, and these are determined by the individual pieces. My whiteware clay is a fun challenge because I get to create the form and draw on it, too. I use underglaze crayons to draw the design and use a clear glaze over my drawings. Most of my whiteware is fully glazed.”
Using her wheel, a ball of clay can become a new bowl, plate, or vase in about 10 minutes. But it’s the preparation and the firing of each piece that take time, Allen said.
With her camera, Allen enjoys traveling with her husband, freezing moments in time.
“I look through the lens and ask myself, ‘What is the story I want to tell?’” she said. “This always helps me compose my shot.” Allen is also an illustrator for Angel Allendale, an author who is self-publishing a series of science fiction-fantasy books.
“I draw pictures of the scenes that she so eloquently writes about,” Allen said of Allendale, who is her daughter.
Allen is also working on two-foot by three-foot paper with soft pastels.
“Changing the size I work in is a way to bring excitement and wonder to a familiar medium,” Allen said.
She also makes jewelry and forms her own glass beads using a torch and a rod of glass.
Oh, and Allen is also a gardener – with a certified Monarch Waystation.
Art is defined as the expression or application of creative skill and imagination to produce works appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
Whether using a camera, pastels and paper, clay, glass beads, or the Earth’s soil, Allen explained that everything she makes has come from her heart.
“It flows from my heart to my hands, with some brain sprinkled in,” Allen said. “I don’t know why I am compelled to create. It is an age-old question. What I hope is that my pieces find their way to someone who will love them as much as I do, and so far that has been the case. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Mary Lue Allen has a Facebook page, Artfrom Theheart Bymarylue. She also has an Etsy page, artfrommaryluesheart, and a website, artfromtheheartbymarylue.com.
Allen’s pottery is on display at the Camp Verde Community Library, 130 Black Bridge Road. Hours during the pandemic are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @AZShutterbug42