The Queue: Mary Richardson-Lowry

The Queue: Mary Richardson-Lowry

Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.

Published on Monday, August 3, 2020.
Identity Narrative products

↑ Mary Richardson-Lowry is the scent maker behind the Identity Narrative line of fragrances and is featured in "The Craft of Scent" in the Beauty issue of American Craft.
Photo: Courtesy of Mary Richardson-Lowry

Introducing the Beauty series of The Queue

A weekly roundup for and by the craft community, the Beauty series of The Queue introduces you to the makers, writers, curators, and more featured in the most recent issue of American Craft. We invite them to share their shortlist of exciting projects, people to follow, and content to consume to help you stay dialed into what's happening in the world of making.

For Mary, art is all around us – and so are opportunities for change

Mary Richardson-Lowry is a businesswoman, lawyer, philanthropist, and scent crafter based in Chicago. Through her line of fragrances, Identity Narrative, Mary explores scent as a form of art and individual expression. She is one of several independent scent makers featured in "The Craft of Scent" in the August/September issue of American Craft@theinarrative

How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I choose to use descriptors, as they can give a full sense of who a person is just by the word choices: Creative. Innovative. Inclusive. Visionary. Unafraid. Oriented. Judicial. Traveller. Compelling. Adventurous. Curious. Thinker. Clever. Forthright. Self-Assured. Wise. Confidant. Compassionate. Gregarious. Resourceful. Intuitive. Empathetic. Ambitious. Complex. Boundless.

In these times of COVID-19 isolation, social unrest, and calls for change, where are you finding beauty?
Beauty is in the knowing, both internally and extenally.

Portrait of Mary Richardson-Lowry

Portrait: Courtesy of Mary Richardson-Lowry

I am finding beauty internally. The self-isolation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with oneself, to do a better job of checking on others virtually, and to ask as well as begin to answer what it takes to create a better national approach and global vision.

I am finding beauty externally. The social unrest and calls for change not only affirm the need for change but also direct each of us to do so equitably and with a sense of urgency. There are those who seek a place at the table. This approach has merit. I, however, have come to the realization that if someone is inviting you to have a seat at a table, it is a sure sign that you don't own the table and someone else is in control. I seek to own the table, as well as ensure equitable inclusivity. I am not awaiting an invitation to sit at someone else’s table. In this, I find beauty.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between craft and beauty?
Craft and beauty are inexplicably intertwined for me. One in the absence of the other is an enigma. Whether one creates with the hands as with sculpture, pottery, or textiles, whether it is with the body, artistically through movement, scent creation, or song, whether it is through art such as a painting, creative writing, or perhaps photography, each craft is an expression of beauty in its own right, and I take great pleasure in it.

What’s one of your favorite tools in your workshop?
It is less a thing, as it is a mindset: I stay open to possibilities and don't limit my potential.

Craft and beauty are inexplicably intertwined for me. One in the absence of the other is an enigma.

What’s your favorite social media post you’ve seen recently?
I was intrigued by the recent 15 Percent Pledge. It is a small step towards inclusivity that could have a big impact.

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about?
Project 44 dance company started by Gierre Godley. We are currently highlighting this artistic expression through the Identity Narrative Artist In Residence Program which we created as a philanthropic platform to lift up lesser known but exceptional artists. He and his company of dancers are simply exquisite.

What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that’s kinda cool, and why?
I sit on a philanthropic board with a deep sense of the importance of community. It supports and partners with numerous organizations whose focus is to bring about positive change, creative solutions, and accelerate progress towards addressing some of the most complex challenges of our time. It is called Chicago Community Trust, and I am proud to lend my time, talent, and treasure to its mission. For me, this is cool.

What podcast should we be listening to right now?
1619Nikole Hannah-Jones does not equivocate. One ought not shy away from her telling of history.

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
Southern Exposure by Lee Bey. It is a pictorial love letter to lesser-known architecture in oftentimes forgotten parts of the Chicagoland. It is incredibly well-presented and written.

1619 Podcast logo


Cover of Southern Exposure by Lee Bey

If you could purchase any artists' work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
Oh... and without hesitation... Mark Bradford’s mixed-media contemporary artistic work makes me quiver with pleasure. He works in both paint and collage and transforms materials often scavenged from the street into wall-sized art installations. For me, this is craft, artistry, beauty, innovation, and purpose at its finest.

Are you binge-watching anything right now?
Pose and Planet Earth. Yes, they are completely different in every way, and yet each depicts the complexities, beauty, and harshness of life, whether in human, animal, or earthly formation.

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