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Remembering Mary Wondrausch (1923 - 2016)

Posted 26th January 2017
Watts Contemporary Gallery

Mary Wondrausch OBE (1923-2016) was one of Britain's most respected ceramicists and a 'beacon of fierce independence, colour and brilliant creativity in the Compton community.'

Mary was a graduate of West Surrey College of Art and Design and an honorary fellow of the Craft Potters' Association. She worked with ceramics for over 35 years, and her work is included in the V&A Collection.

Her early career as an artist saw her creating large-scale collage paintings, up to 4' x 9', and after taking up pottery she set up her own business in Godalming in 1974. In 2015, at the age of 92, Mary began her return to painting.

In preparation for the exhibition Mary Wondrausch: A Return to Painting, Mary described her working process for us:

'I start early in the morning (my first coffee of the day often goes cold as I get absorbed in my painting). I start the paintings with a still life as inspiration. I then choose the colour I want to work with.

I begin by gluing cut-outs from magazines onto the paper. I then draw on the still life and build up the painting with gouache, a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance. My paintings take roughly three days to complete.'

Perdita Hunt OBE DL, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, remembers her first time meeting Mary:

'I had my first formal meeting with Mary when I was invited to come to her house and pottery. As with anyone who has visited the pottery, you just rang the bell and entered and a throaty voice welcome you into the sanctuary, where it felt time had stood still. It was a place which, even in the summer, felt cold.

When we arrived she was sitting at her wheel, in her smock, actually turning some clay. I felt this was a rare moment as her arthritis usually forbade her from working with the cold material. She was very engaged with a task of making the funerary monument for her own grave at the time. She wanted it to be a celebration of the things that mattered to her most: food, wine, art and beauty.

Mary was a weathervane for Compton. Her approbation of the restoration of Watts Gallery was very important to us. Mary was the potter in the village; she personified the extraordinary legacy and character of this place.'

Mary died on 26 December 2016.

The Artists' Village is delighted to have the opportunity to pay tribute to Mary in the exhibition Mary Wondrausch: A Return to Painting, open in Watts Contemporary Gallery until 19 February.