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Being an artist keeps her young

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Dec 6, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Mary Waters has been a member of the Firelands Area Art League for more than 15 years, but she had a career in art long before that.

“After graduation from high school in Sandusky, I went to Cleveland Institute of Art and, eventually, majored in textiles and pottery,” she said.

Soon Waters moved to New York City, where for 30 years she designed fabrics for home decor — upholstery, curtains and draperies, even sleeping bags for children when “Star Trek” was in vogue.

After years of designing for different companies, she said she “was burning out (and) had done it enough.”

“I wanted to be in Venice for my 50th birthday,” Waters added.

But before that she made a stop in Lake Como and met some people who said, “let’s go to the pool.”

“When I put on my bathing suit, I didn't like what I saw. I came home after that trip and started to work out. My stress went away. I decided to quit my job. I wanted to be a personal trainer and did the qualifications to teach in New York. Then I decided to move back home to Ohio,” Waters said.

“I decided to look for condos. I had sold my place in New York. My family said, ‘find something to rent,’ but I wanted a place on the Chaussee, so I bought a condo at Point Retreat.

“I had a three-story town house, but I was the single, only person in it. But I couldn't find a job since I was over-qualified. Finally I found a job selling furniture at Herman’s, but Herman’s fired me; I couldn't sell what I didn't like, so after 15 months with no job, I lost my condo,” Waters said.

However, Waters had met Don Barone, a neighbor on the Chaussee who had a pottery business. This would turn out to be important in the future.

“I had two friends from the textile business, one of whom said, ‘you can come and live on Comack Island with me.’ I was kind of lost for a while,” Waters said. “My other friend said, ‘come live with me but, No. 1 get a job, No. 2, get a home (and) No. 3, move in three months.’”

"Then I met Tom (her husband) in New Jersey at a church function. So when we married we lived in New Jersey. Tom was retired. He said I should retire as I was 62 and could apply for Social Security,” Waters added.

“I already had a pension from my New York jobs. Being retired, I decided I would try to do pottery (instead of textiles). I took a class at Princeton three days each week in 1999-2000. It got me back into the clay.

With traffic being “so awful in New Jersey,” Waters and her husband moved to Ohio. They found a place to call their own in Huron in 2001.

“After that, Don Barone got me involved in pottery here. Eventually I decided to set up my own studio at our house,” Waters said.

Her nephew, Scott Blair, ended up helping her soon after Waters’ sister died.

“He would visit at the house and we would play cribbage. He helped in the yard,” Waters said. “He helped when my husband had quadruple by-pass surgery. He helped so much here I said ‘move in.’ Then he began throwing pots too, since he had had art experience in high school.

“The two of us are Lake Waters Pottery. We do festivals. A big one is the FAAL show in spring. We travel all over Ohio for shows in Berea, Chagrin Falls, also at a winery in North Canton — a great show — and others all over.”

Barone had recommended Waters join FAAL. That led to her meeting three people, all of whom did watercolor work.

“I had been doing fabric design and knew how to paint. When I did my first painting they were impressed, but I told them, ‘well, you know I graduated from Cleveland Art School,” Waters said.

“Now I'm painting and doing pottery both. I’m a Tuesday night painter because it’s the only time I have to paint. I even organized a pottery show at Sandusky State Theatre once, with all sorts of artists.

“I've learned never to frame a watercolor right away. Sometimes I walk past and want to change something. It's a lot of work to take it out of the frame then just to change or add to it,” said Waters, who has been struggling with macular degeneration.

‘My art keeps me young. It gives me a lot of pleasure. It can also give me a lot of agony such as when you open the kiln and it’s either Christmas or it’s trash day — when the glaze comes out wrong, when the trees are burnt instead of green.

Waters said she and Blair, her nephew, work well together.

“His work is masculine, mine is feminine. He didn’t try to emulate me; he became his own potter. We’re together, but separate. We are partners in Lake Waters business. I couldn’t do it without him. It is hard work to pack and move pottery to set up for shows. He puts up with his old aunt. Without him, I’d be doing pottery in much smaller scale. With my eyesight it would be very difficult for me to mix glazes and get it right,” Waters said.

“I’m enjoying my life and hope I can live and work another 20 years, being with my friends. Life is good.”

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