Maria Dondero has lived in Athens, GA for 18 years now and considers it her home. Born in Yaoundé Cameroon, the youngest of five children, her large family and travel has influenced her work greatly. A love of eating delicious food and an appreciation for how the presentation of that food adds to the experience lead her to pottery. She took her first class while living in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2000, fell in love and has been making pots and teaching ever since. Following in her family’s footsteps, Dondero continued to study and work abroad, being particularly influenced by terracotta in Italy and slipware in Japan.
In May 2008, she completed her MFA at the University of Georgia. After teaching adjunct Ceramics for a year, in September 2009, she opened up a studio/gallery in Athens and started making work with the name Marmalade Pottery. In January 2016, she renovated an old heating & air manufacturer into a larger studio and gallery. With the name Southern Star Studio, she rents spaces out to many local ceramicists. The studio provides space for a vibrant community of artists and a gallery to present their work. Dondero’s pots are represented in galleries all over the country, and she participates in many invitational and juried shows and online sales. She has taught at Universities and workshops throughout the South East.
In January 2012, she gave birth to twin boys and now splits her time between pottery, teaching and them. The characters she draws on her pots now tend to show up in twos. Her work focuses on functional pottery whose aesthetics draw on the age old and worldwide history of ceramics. While subtly referencing pottery traditions from around the world, Maria intuitively sketches images from her surroundings, grounding her work in the Georgia soil.
I want my work to show a conscious process, an alternative to lifeless mold-made pottery that is so prevalent at a cost hardly reflecting the steps involved. Picking up a handmade cup reveals its weight, its surface, its edge, and the fit of the handle. Then bringing this object to lips is even more intimate, such that sipping from a unique cup becomes a connection to the maker. I myself connect to pottery for the rich, long history of potters who have made beautiful objects to be used in everyday life.
I choose terracotta for the rich color and the likeness to Georgia Clay. I use a kaolin slip to add texture and a surface to draw back into. I respond to the form itself with imagery from my life and surroundings. I seek to balance the immediacy of quickly sketched drawings with the permanence of a piece of pottery that could be around long after I am.
About the Process
I start with a kick wheel and a slowly thrown pot using a beautiful, rich red/brown clay. Enjoying the process is equally important to me as the finished product. I want the end result to reveal the process: the rings from throwing, the attachment of the handle or knob, fingerprints and gestures in the white slip. When the piece is leather-hard, I apply a white kaolin slip either by dipping or brushing. After the slip dries, I sketch quick drawings into the clay, revealing the dark clay underneath. I try not to think too much about what I am drawing; rather I let the random finger swipes and the shape of the pot suggest silly images of plants and animals to me.
After the bisque, I stain the lines with an iron/copper stain to add another layer of texture and color. Next, I add colors - primarily a hand-mixed water glaze with copper and iron oxides that I like for the vibrancy of hue, and the contrast that it adds to the dark clay and white slip. Last, I use an atomizer to spray a light clear glaze over the pieces, leaving them with lots of texture and, hopefully, not too shiny.