A Passion for the Arts

Posted On September 27, 2021

Potter Marguerite Palmer seeks to enhance community through the arts

By Kathy Pettit

It began with the clay.

“I love carving into clay,” says Marguerite. “It is exhilarating to see how the glaze melts into the spaces carved and enhances the marks and lines made by my hands and carving tools.”

Her preferred creations have practical and aesthetic uses. “My favorite things to make are bowls, mugs, platters, and – more bowls,” she says. “I like to use my pottery every day, and I love seeing other folks use my pieces to serve food or as a centerpiece.” Her platters serve nicely as art on the walls or on tables filled with flowers or fruit when not in use.  

Often, you’ll find the Newberry resident at the Newberry Arts Center, an offering to the town which was years in the making. “We began the NAC in 2014 with summer arts camps and watercolor classes,” Marguerite says. “In less than a year, a strong arts program was created which provides quality arts experiences to all.” As a division of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department, the mission is to find ways to help create current and future arts patrons. It’s working.

In 2015, NAC created the South Carolina Clay Conference, held in 2021 on September 17-19 at the NAC.

“The idea came from my good friend and potter Sue Grier,” Marguerite said. “I’d attended many conferences and would talk about how I wanted to bring people together to create and explore ideas and have fun!” She wanted participants to open their minds to new ways of creating and to share those ideas with others.

The Duncan native found her pottery passion when she was 15, learning to make pottery at the Greenville Museum of Art. “I’d just gotten my driver’s license, and my parents told me to pick out any art class I wanted to take,” she said. “I chose pottery.” With Sharon Campbell as her first instructor, Marguerite fell in love with the clay, the process, and the way it made her feel. “With clay and working on the potter’s wheel, I discovered something that allowed me to feel good about myself, and over the years, I have found that it’s not only calming and therapeutic to me, but to others as well.”

She’s been a potter for 35 years and has taught art at Newberry College, Newberry Middle School, and Dutch Fork High School. She’s also worked in the Newberry community, teaching pottery classes, offering special art programs for at-risk children, and working with schools to provide arts programs.

“I learned early in my career that creating community through arts programs and bringing people together to allow them to become creators was more important to me than making pottery to sell.”

Her carving is done by hand without a template or plan. “My pieces are thrown on the wheel, and then I let them tell me where I should carve or enhance the surface,” she says. “Sometimes the carving is inspired by nature – the look of plants or the way dirt is shaped by water running in a stream, or perhaps a trip like my visit to the Southwest, which inspired my piece called Landscape Vessel. Sometimes, the carving is a series of repetitive curves or marks.

Most often, you can find three circles or marks representing the Trinity because I want all that I do and create to be to the glory and honor of Christ.”

Most of her time is spent running the arts center, organizing the clay conference, and heading up a nonprofit, CREATE Newberry, Inc., to help support the programming and growth of the center.

Thankfully, she still finds time to create her magical pieces. Her latte cups and coffee mugs are available at Genesis Hub, a fair-trade coffee shop on Main Street in Newberry. And her Facebook page, Marguerite Palmer Pottery, features her work.

“People and community are why I do what I do. If there were two of me, I would spend half my time making pottery because of the process and peace that goes with it, and the other half creating arts events for the community. People’s lives can be so enhanced and blessed through the arts.”