Fire, Smoke and Passion

Maria Loe was an experienced stained glass artist until she made the move from Aspen, Colo., to Moab, Utah.

"There was absolutely no market for stained glass in Moab," Loe recalled.

In Utah, Loe read a story about Buddhist begging bowls, which are simple bowls used by Buddhist monks to collect alms or food from people. Loe asked an artist friend to help her make one and said she fell in love with the craft.

"That was it," Loe said, fingering a begging bowl she created. "As the Pueblo potters say, 'Mother Clay invited me to work with her.'"

Hungry to learn more, Loe traveled to ceramic workshops from Colorado to California and even traveled to Canada and Italy. She finally decided to get a traditional degree and attended California's Cuesta College as a ceramics major at the age of 66.

"I think (going to school) has added a lot to my work," she said.

Loe began to fall in love with bowl-making when she attended a Northern Arizona University workshop taught by a Navajo woman.

"I went and it totally changed my work," she said. Now, "I could go to an African village and sit and make pots with the women."

After moving to Sequim five years ago to be closer to her family, Loe found that Olympic Peninsula residents were not always as familiar with fire-pit clay work as those in the Southwest.

"I spend time educating people on how it's made," Loe said of her decision to invite the public to visit her home studio.

As she explains to intrigued Sequimites, when she puts the pots into the fire-pit - which is filled with sawdust, manure, seaweed and scrap wood - they are "snow white."

"When they come out, what I get is what I get," she said. "I have no idea what it will look like. Sometimes the colors come out depending on the composition of what I'm burning ... seaweed can change the color."

One of Loe's favorite pieces, "Moon Spot" was the result of such an accident - the piece turned out nearly all deep gray except for one spot of gleaming white.

It's always like Christmas when I open the pit," she said, laughing.

Most of Loe's pieces are based on ideas from ancient cultures.

"I don't use anything that reflects the American Southwest," she said. "Those are their sacred symbols."

Loe has quit doing stained glass now and said she focuses all her time and energy on creating ceramic pieces.

"It's very organic and that appeals to me, rather than all the glazes and technology of some other art," Loe said. "It's very meditative work when you coil pots. I consider it a blessing ... that this came into my life."

Maria Loe's work can be seen at the Blue Whole Gallery, the Waterfront Gallery in Port Angeles and currently in the "Strait Art" exhibit at Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.

Loe said she is happy to entertain visits to her studio, "Fire and Smoke," by appointment.

For more information, contact Loe at 681-7327 or

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