This handsome mid-century set of salt and pepper shakers was produced by the ladies of the Graylor Art Pottery at Tom Thatcher's Martha's Vineyard Pottery beginning in the summer of 1953. They measure a mere 2" high by 1.75" square. They are hand made of red clay, with a squared and pinched form. They are glazed in a handsome mix of Cape Cod gray with an overspray of oyster, and decorated with a stylized tulip blossom in green on each side. This set is well marked 'Graylor' on their bases along with the letters 'MV', which noted that they were made at the Martha's Vineyard Pottery, while they studied with Thatcher. This set is in fine original condition with the usual glaze nuances of hand made pottery, and just a small bare grinding spot on the underside of one shaker, presumably for a glaze drip, which they ground down at the studio to level it. This diminutive shaker set is classic 1950s in a mid-century modern design. However, the story of these potters is grand in comparison.
Graylor Art Pottery was a collaboration of Ohio State University (OSU) graduates Mary A. Grabill and June Elizabeth Taylor. Their pottery was called 'Graylor', which was a combination of letters from their surnames. Tom Thatcher, June Taylor and Mary Grabill met at OSU and were students of Edgar Littlefield and Carlton Atherton. Tom was the founder of the Martha's Vineyard Pottery in 1950. Their work was primarily carved forms on a rich red clay body much like this set of S&P. Mary exhibited at the Syracuse Ceramic Nationals in 1949, 1950 and 1962, where as June Taylor exhibited in the years of 1948, 1949 and 1950. The Graylor pottery was an Ohio-based pottery that was in existence for about 6 years. An online search produced the last photo in my listing, showing the three OSU grads from left to right: June Taylor (kneeling), Mary Grabill and Tom Thatcher at the Martha's Vineyard Pottery.
Thatcher appears to have remained on Cape Cod into the 1980s, at the pottery, contributing to the island's pottery history, and then as an owner operator of a local youth hostel. Details of Taylor are sketchy after Graylor Pottery closed. Mary Grabill's obituary details a dedicated life-long love of clay, so I am sharing it here:
Mary A. Grabill, born February 12, 1919, attended Ohio State University majoring in arts and sciences. In the mid-40's Mary turned the family's backyard chicken coop into a pottery studio called Graylor, where she learned to make uniquely earthy useful pottery. She grew up in the '30s in a family that ate from a large family garden and had chickens, not far from the college where her father was a music professor. Mary survived childhood polio and even though it left her with some nerve damage, this didn't stop her from making pottery. Some of the 'motto' mugs are collector's items because of the folk sayings on them. In her pottery she used to go out and dig for "mud" from the land where she lived and painted images of local animals in the glazes, always feeling that connection with the earth and ground. Then she moved to Martha's Vineyard where she studied and made pottery. In the 50's, after Martha's Vineyard, she opened "The Sign of the Sandpiper" in Coconut Grove, Florida near other art shops before the place was altered into up-scale multi-floor businesses. After Coconut Grove, she found a home on a pond where she continued to make pottery and where she fed the swans and turtles that would swim up to shore. She was generous to apprentices trading pottery for art. She taught lessons on the potter's wheel to many people young and old. She also loved her beloved pets. Mary was a woman who pursued her art and made a living through it that was highly unique. She leaves behind good friends and family, but also at least six decades of strong, functional, earthy pottery still part of countless East Coast homes. Perhaps, Grabill did not have the fame of Arthur Baggs, but she made a wonderful contribution to the arts, all with a ball of mud in her hands.