Meet Local Paraeducator, Potter, and More…Rachael Anderson

Photo by Alicia Spataro

May 1, 2023 By Marisa Olsen

Hingham educator and Norwell native Rachael Anderson has another passion, in addition to her paraeducator work at East Elementary (and a cosmetology license to boot). Anderson is the founder and creator of Marsh Mud, a sustainable pottery company that specializes in hand-crafted mugs and planters.

Rachael’s career and her passion for children and art has come full circle. She began working in the Hingham school system about four years ago at the Kids in Action afterschool program. Once the pandemic hit, she was transferred to East Elementary School as a Paraeducator for Brian Demarco, about whom Rachael touts the good fortune to work alongside for the past three years as a mentor and colleague. Rachael reflects, “Being Brian Demarco’s classroom para has been a true gift. The joy and fulfillment I get as I witness the growth and progress of the students I work with is incredible. It’s a rewarding experience to be a part of a team that helps shape young minds and prepares them for their future.”

Rachael’s love for pottery and clay–which eventually transformed into Marsh Mud–came about quite organically. A year ago, Rachael began experimenting with clay and making little pinch pots. She quickly became hooked on the medium, and decided to purchase a pottery wheel, which opened up a whole new world of ceramic exploration. She wanted to share her newly found passion and hobby with her class, and her students were ecstatic about the artwork and artform. Rachael knew immediately that she had a new passion to explore, and she quickly built her own business and studio.

Rachael’s work is hand-crafted start-to-finish in her home. Her primary bedroom is her pottery studio, which hosts the pottery wheel, tablework, tools, and benches, and her electric kiln lives in her basement. Her artwork boasts organic elements, often with interpretative aspects that are inspired from nature.

The ceramics are created with love, time, and patience for the craft. Each handmade piece takes about a week-and-a-half to produce. Rachael starts off with about one-and-a-half pounds of clay, then rolls the clay into a ball and places the clay on the wheel, where she manipulates the exterior of the vessel, such as a planter or mug. Then, the clay has to dry out for about 12 hours. Next, she creates a handle by hand and uses a method called “scratch and attaching” to attach the handle to the piece. She will add details, such as eyes or mushrooms, or other unique features. Then, the piece has to fully dry out, to what is called “bone dry,” which takes about a week. Afterwards, the piece is fired for the first time and transforms into a ceramic piece. She then adds a glaze and fires the piece again at a whopping 2,300 degrees. She sources all materials and equipment from local Portland Pottery in Braintree.

Rachael is primarily a self-taught potter and is indebted to her good friend and ceramicist artist Andi MacKay who is currently completing a masters in ceramics. All pieces are dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and Rachael loves creating commissions for interested patrons.

We sat down with artist, educator, and creative Rachael to learn more about her craft and story. Read on to discover the story behind these whimsical mugs and hand-crafted ceramics.

How would you describe Marsh Mud?

I would describe Marsh Mud as a place where nature meets abstract art. I like to pull a lot of inspiration from nature and give it a little twist. Each piece is handcrafted and unique.

Your pieces have a nature-bend – what inspires you?

Many of my pieces feature mushrooms or other nature elements in natural-inspired hues and tones. I pull inspiration from the woods around me. I also have a passion for crystals and that theme always seems to come out in my work. I love learning about the history of crystals; each crystal has a unique story to tell. One of my signature and most beloved pieces is called the bee mug. It was inspired by a teacher and beekeeper, and I wanted to make him a special piece of art in honor of his bee passion. I ended up loving the outcome and kept making more bee mugs. I am always inspired by all the little joys in people’s lives.

Tell us more about your mugs and their names and how they are created from your mind to the kiln.

As my students will tell you, I do enjoy a good pun. So a lot of names I come up with are a play on words.

Where is your studio and how can our readers support your work?

Like all good recipes, my work is all homemade. Aside from my website, you can find me in a few local stores, which are Cast A Stone in Abington, Ravenstone in Lynn, and Mother Crewe Naturals in Plymouth. I will also be displaying my work alongside Andi at Norwell Public Library from June through July of 2023, with items available for purchase.

What is your favorite thing to drink in your mugs?

Oh that’s easy, hot chocolate.

What brought you and your family to Hingham?

My passion for teaching and an open position at Kids in Action are what brought me to Hingham, where I worked with children in grades three to five. As a child, I attended an afterschool program, so it was important for me to give back and devote time to afterschool education.

What is your favorite thing about Hingham?

In my opinion, the schools are the best thing about Hingham. Working at East Elementary I have found a true sense of community. Whenever a fellow student or teacher needs a hand, someone is there to assist. I love being a part of this caring community.

What else would you like to share with our readers?

I would just like to say thank you for taking the time to read about my story. I am so grateful to work with the Hingham education department, and for all of the opportunities this wonderful town has given me.

Looking ahead, I would like to one day own my own ceramics boutique and combine my passion for education, and teach eager students hands-on pottery techniques.

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