Warrensburg artist Mary Landenberger feeds one of her sheep — that provide her with the wool she spins and uses to create her fiber-art scarves.
Perched on a stool in Riverside Gallery, Mary Leonard Landenberger pulled and twisted wool in her fingers during a break from arranging some of her fiber art and pottery for display.
The woolen “roving” she was creating would someday soon be worked into the fabric of one of her wearable felt art creations, she said. The wool was shorn from ‘Zipper,” one of the sheep she’s raised, and it would be blended into other fibers in one of her art scarves, she said.
“It will serve as a memorial to him — It’s nice to have his wool and have him still with me,” she said. “It’s about changing energy — Life goes on.”
Not long afterwards, Landenberger was in a pasture, feeding two of her sheep, then cuddling a one-day-old baby chick she adopted after its mother abandoned it. Later, she was in her studio, molding a ceramic bowl on a potters wheel. Finishing her work, she reviewed the progress of the plants growing her garden. Soon after, she chased her large pet turtle Corrina through a field.
Like many other artists in the Adirondacks, the rhythm of nature serves as a source of artistic inspiration for Landenberger, she explained as she pursued her day’s activities.
A Warrensburg resident who grew up on the east shore of Lake George, she is an avid kayaker, swimmer, hiker, wanderer, animal nurturer, amateur naturalist, sustainability enthusiast, gardener — and artist.
Whether it’s a rushing stream, a vivid sunset, autumn leaves scattered in the woods, streaks of mineral deposits in a rock, or the morning mist rising off a remote pond, Landenberger subliminally absorbs the beauty — and the colors, textures and forms she witnesses influence her artwork, she said.
For decades, her artistic vision has been developed through both formal studies and sharing ideas with artists and artisans in the Adirondacks, Glens Falls and Saratoga areas, she said.
Her formal involvement in art had its roots in a 1979 road trip to Montana, which led to her taking classes at the University of Montana, taught by famed sculptor and ceramic artist Rudy Autio. His elaborately etched, free-flowing ceramic works are in prestigious collections and renowned museums in the U.S. and abroad.
“He was one of the ‘greats,’ but I had no idea at the time,” she said, noting that after the formal courses under Rudio, he continued to be an influence, as they both worked out of the same campus studios for the following 15 years.
“Rudy was this wonderful father figure — He embraced the whole community and welcomed his students into his heart and home. ”
She also cited ceramic artists Beth Lo and David Regan as influences — Landenberger took classes with Lo and shared a studio with Regan, a friend, who is well-known for his elaborate etched porcelain forms and tiles.
Landenberger moved back to Lake George in 1994, and soon after took painting classes instructed by Mark Walp and Katie DeGroot at SUNY Adirondack.
Beginning in 1996, Landenberger studied ceramics with renowned sculptor Regis Brodie at Skidmore College. Both Landenberger’s felt art and her pottery show influences of both Autio’s figurative etchings in ceramic and Brodie’s free-wheeling, mesmerizing layered glaze abstractions. They also reflect her interest in both classic and Japanese art.
Brodie advised her to study Art Education at St. Rose College, which she did, pursuing a Master’s degree, while her studio work continued with Brodie.
In the 1990s, she connected with dozens of artists working in various media, and served on the Lake George Arts Project board of directors in the late 1990s.
Moving forward on her winding life’s path, Mary married Warrensburg veterinarian Brian Landenberger in 1999, and she helped raise his son.
For Christmas 2000, Brian gave her a pregnant ewe named Zoey, which bore two lambs, Zipper and Zorro. Landenberger began spinning the wool shorn from her sheep, weaving various clothing items — and Zipper, Zorro and other sheep Brian and she raised provided plenty of wool for her practical as well as artistic work in fabric.
In the 2000s, she also enjoyed sculpting ceramics on a potter’s wheel on their porch, as well as tending her garden nearby. In addition to the sheep, Brian and Mary raised chickens and ducks, a pig, cockatiels — and iguanas adopted through her husband’s veterinary practice.
Although immersed in home life, Landenberger joined the group Serendipity Spinners, led by Carol Gregson of Chester, as well as continuing to spend time with various artists in the region.
In 2012, Brian bought her a felt art scarf created by Marjolaine Arsenault, and this wearable art — as well as a felt art show at the LARAC Gallery in Glens Falls — sparked Mary’s passion for her work in felt, he said.
Since then, she’s explored a variety of materials and techniques, sharing time and ideas with other artists, developing her own skills.
Landenberger talked modestly about her own creations, while praising the work of acclaimed felt artists Robin Blakney-Carlson at the Shirt Factory artists complex in Glens Falls and Marjolaine Arsenault who lives in Chestertown and maintains a studio in North Creek. She also noted the artwork of Jeanne Noordsy, Carol and Annie Gregson, and others.
“We’re all inspired by nature and each other, it’s very supportive and collaborative,” she said, noting that Reiki is also a major element of her life.
As she finished molding a clay vessel, she said she wasn’t quite sure where her life was headed — she might become a Reiki master, or she might launch a community art studio, as her mentor, ceramic artist Beth Lo predicted decades ago.
“Wouldn’t that be lovely if that is where all this is headed?” she asked.