In Focus: Mary Schneider

When Mary Schneider first discovered Fleisher in 2008, she was looking to carve out more time to focus on art making. A graduate of Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University where she studied graphic design and photography, Mary found herself unfulfilled working as a designer in the publishing industry. Eager to explore a new medium and methods, she enrolled in Josephine Tsai’s Chinese brush painting class, before life called her away from the region.

“I found this great thing to do, and then I left Philadelphia,” she joked when we caught up with her recently.

Fortunately, Mary returned to the region in 2015 and re-enrolled in classes at Fleisher with a friend, looking for both fun and accountability. While she admits she was already comfortable with printmaking as a medium, Mary’s time in Elaine Erne’s Printmaking Techniques helped her re-engage with the community of artists she had been missing since her graduation and opened her up to new challenges, namely ceramics.

“I felt like I was cheating by taking a printmaking class when I already knew how to do it,” she said. “Taking on challenges is something that helps me reinvigorate my creativity when it starts to falter.”

While she previously envisioned herself as a two-dimensional artist, Mary set her sights on ceramics. After a few introductory classes, she has become a fixture in Fleisher’s ceramics open studio community. Her exploration of the medium resulted in a first place prize in this year’s Annual Adult Student Exhibition, where her Pigeon Plate displayed her sense of humor and upbringing.

For the piece, Mary found inspiration in Philadelphia’s wildlife, the work of Connecticut ceramic artist Sue Tirrell – from whom Mary learned a number of surface decoration techniques – and in the homes of her parents and grandparents. Growing up just outside of Gettysburg, Mary said, commemorative plates were a de facto home decoration choice, so Mary opted to hang her plate on Fleisher’s gallery wall.

As for the subject matter, “I think they’re beautiful but annoying,” she said of the city’s pigeon population. “They’re really pretty when you think about it, but they’re also really gross when you think about it for too long.”

In addition to the instruction she has received, being a part of a like-minded community of artists has helped shape Mary’s growth as an artist. In the ceramics studio, she says, helpful critiques are always available and the entire community learns from both each individual artist’s successes and failures. Mary also said it’s comforting to come to a place like Fleisher, where she often sees much of herself in her colleagues that are just a bit older.

“It’s really nice to connect with other people like that and see that there’s hope for me after all,” she said with a laugh.

Since the coronavirus led to the cancellation of one of the Annual Adult Student Exhibition reception and prize ceremony, in which we celebrate the achievements of our adult students, we are highlighting a number of the exhibition’s prize winners each week. The series, In Focus, will run through the spring.

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