Little Houses

Mary Fischer’s bleakly whimisical structures

Like the structures she creates from extruded pieces of clay, Mary Fischer’s words about her work are minimal, which she describes as “bleakly whimisical.” 

The Texas-born artist first started to work with clay after she and a friend attended a city-funded facility where she was able to take lessons. It soon turned into a passion where she wanted more and continued on taking classes at the Southwest School of Art and Craft in San Antonio.

She is inspired by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi whose work was influenced by 1920s Italian modernism as well as Stalinist architecture, and studio potter Hans Coper who would alter pieces and assemble pieces by hand. Nature also plays a role in Fischer’s inspiration that include the Plains Indians, beaver dams, and termite hills.

In her artist’s statement, Fischer explains that her work is architecture. Her structures are built with slabs and pieces of extruded clay. In designing her various pieces, she makes paper patterns that are taken apart and used to cut out the various pieces from the clay parts. The extruded pieces of clay are cut and reassembled; the small slabs of clay are used to close the ends. “This process is akin to playing with legos,” she writes. “The more pieces there are to play with, the more ideas there are to explore. Sometimes, finished pieces consist of separate parts that can be arranged in different ways, as whim dictates.”

Once all the pieces are completed, she fires them in an electric kiln to cone five. She might add a layer of white slip to some of the piece before bisque firing. Afterwards, she applies a copper wash and another layer of slip. Stains and glazes or colored slip are also used, but kept to a minimum. “Images come and go in my work., using photos I’ve taken and transferred to clay using different techniques,” she writes.

Her buildings include multiple pieces that aren’t attached, allowing her to modify the structures. Fischer studies buildings both outdoors and in photographs. The various elements are like pieces of puzzle that she sorts out and pieces together. “The buildings started as boxes. Lids become roofs. Feet and chimineys appeared and things go on from there, changing from season to season.”

To view Mary Fischer’s whimsical structures, stop by the Snyderman-Works Galleries in Philadelphia. Fischer will be included in the upcoming exhibit, The Edifice, running from May 5, 2016 to June 11, 2106. For more information, visit



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