Our Town: a tile maker follows her passion

Mary Lynn Buss, a tile and mosaic master, in her own words.

Mary Lynn Buss’s artwork of a flying heron (Courtesy Photo).

Mary Lynn Buss’s artwork of a flying heron (Courtesy Photo).

Note: In recent weeks, the e-newsletter to members of Vashon Island Visual Artists has been filled with profiles and photos of artists’ profiles and photos of their work, in an ongoing project of VIVA founder Christine Beck to keep the faces and work of local artists in the minds and eyes of their compatriots on Vashon. The Beachcomber is sharing these portraits of creators who live in a town that has gained renown as an artists’ haven. This week, we present Mary Lynn Buss, a tile and mosaic master, in her own words.

After 20 years as a lawyer in Chicago and Michigan, I pondered shifting to a career in the arts. We were living in London at the time and I was playing with fiber arts and taking painting and sculpture classes.

I did not think about working with clay until a holiday took us to Portugal, a country of tile-clad buildings indoor and out.

I always liked tile work. Travels over the years had taken me to such tile meccas as Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, and Spain. But my moment of Zen came after a long day in the Lisbon tile museum. I stood outside on the sidewalk and my heart said, “You can do this.”

Back to London, I began my studies of the art, craft, and history of tile making in the museums, libraries and historic tiled buildings of England.

For many years I made molds and produced original decorative tiles for use in home installations. More recently my work has focused on creating one of a kind wall art pieces and tile-plus-mosaic garden art. I love learning new techniques and experimenting with clays and glazes. With a “what if” attitude, I mix all sorts of things to clay bodies and abuse glazes and clays with over-firing, under-firing, and multi-firings.

Where it leads, I follow.

In recent years, the signs of the times and the plight of our planet have begun to influence my work. In particular, awesome natural disasters — earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, drought, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions, along with the creeping effects of climate change, have seeped into my more abstract work.

— Mary Lynn Buss

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