Mary E. Nyburg, 87, potter, teacher

April 10, 2006

Mary E. Nyburg, a potter who developed her love of the craft in Baltimore, died Wednesday in Fredericksburg, Texas, of complications from lung cancer, heart problems and pulmonary illness. The Maine native was 87.

Mrs. Nyburg lived for many years in northwest Baltimore County, where she guided many fellow potters locally and served as a member of the organizing board of directors at Baltimore Clayworks. She left the area in 1988 to move to Deer Isle, Maine.

She was born Mary Eliza Cooper in Dixfield, Maine and raised in Albion. She graduated from the University of Maine.

After she married her husband, Robert, who was originally from Baltimore, the two moved to Garrison in Baltimore County, where Mrs. Nyburg worked at several medical and social service nonprofit organizations, according to her friends.

She was about 40 when she saw a pottery demonstration at a county fair while visiting family in Maine and decided she had to try it, said Finn Alban, a former student who lives in Fredericksburg and cared for Mrs. Nyburg before her death.

Mrs. Nyburg took pottery classes at the Baltimore Museum of Art with potter Olin Russum for several years before quitting her job and opening a studio at her house, Ms. Alban said.

She made functional pieces - mugs, vases, bowls and plates. "They were generally very simple, very heartfelt, gutsy and clearly handmade," Ms. Alban said. "They were an expression of Mary as a person - just beautiful."

"She loved the craft world and found ways to support it," said Patricia Halle of Waverly, another former student. She studied with Mrs. Nyburg as a child and young adult and was inspired to become a potter herself.

Mrs. Nyburg served on many boards and councils of craft organizations, including the Maryland Craft Council, the Potters Guild of Baltimore, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the American Craft Council. She was a delegate to the World Craft Council conferences several years. The artist also opened a gallery on Deer Isle and received a lifetime achievement award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, according to her friends.

Her husband, an advertising executive, died in the early 1980s, her friends said. The couple had no children.

A service was to be held yesterday in Texas and one will be held this summer on Deer Isle, Ms. Alban said. Baltimore Clayworks is planning to hold an exhibit of her work and a memorial celebration in May, Mrs. Halle said.

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