Mary McDonald Proves There’s an Artist in Us All

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It was just another beautiful day in Laguna Beach. I went through my typical morning routine of strolling along the beach, getting a coffee at Zinc, and then popping into Laguna Supply to see what new items they had in stock. Today, a large, ceramic mug with speckled dots caught my eye. As I went on with my day I couldn’t stop thinking about the mug -- how perfect it would be for my morning tea, how nice it would feel in my hand...

Later that day, a friend asked if I had heard of Mary McDonald of Double M Pottery, a local ceramic artist whose work she had recently found and loved. One look at her Instagram spun me by surprise. Here was the creator of my dream mug -- it was kismet.

I had to learn more about this artist, and, decided to reach out to ask her more about her design process, sources of inspiration, and living in Laguna.

McDonald’s career as a ceramic artist didn’t blossom until later in life. It wasn’t until her children went off to college that she began to long for something new. After taking ceramics classes at Saddleback College she became completely addicted to working with clay.

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The budding artist continued to learn, practicing constantly at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, until she finally felt ready to put her work out into the world. Soon, her new career was rolling along like a pottery wheel, with her creations being showcased in 13 stores throughout California (including Laguna’s Garage Collective and -- of course -- Laguna Supply, the home of my mug).

“To me, being an artist means feeling so passionate about something that you feel compelled to do it,” says McDonald. “I feel that we are all artists, but some of us haven’t yet found our medium.”

The businesswoman shows that passions can be found at any stage in life if you are just open to exploring them.

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Making each piece entirely by hand, McDonald is selective about where she chooses to sell her art, requiring each location to reflect her aesthetic and be somewhere she, herself, would like to shop. She works together with store owners and employees, listening to their feedback on her work, often taking suggestions into considerations when creating experimental pieces that spark her creativity. This process helps her better understand her devoted customers.

Always looking for new ideas, she’s constantly drawing inspiration from the city she’s still in awe of after 30 years. “The ocean, the lights at night from the houses on the hills, the small town feel -- Laguna is truly a unique place,” she says with a deep sense of gratitude. “And because Laguna is an art colony, there is an acceptance of people being allowed to express themselves artistically.”

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Her favorite work that she is producing right now are mugs and pots with dots (ahem!). For her, painting dots onto ceramics evokes a meditative relaxation in her process. The artist acknowledges the trial and error process in ceramics, explaining, “I can have a specific plan for a piece that I am working on, and when I pull it out of the kiln it can completely flop, or come out even better than planned! There are many happy accidents in pottery,” she explains. “There are so many variables along the way that will affect the outcome, it's not always controllable. Pottery has taught me to enjoy the process and let go of certain expectations.”

It’s a lesson that is also easily applied outside of ceramics and in everyday life. It’s in the way we choose to react to events out of our control. It’s a mentality that seems to be applicable to many people residing in Laguna Beach… perhaps it’s due to the artist found within us all?

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Gemma Totten is a world traveler, but first and foremost, a Laguna local. Catch up with her on her dream (and beach)-worthy Instagram at @gemmatotten.

All Body Photos by: Grant Puckett.