Maria Slough said she loved playing in the mud as a child. Now that she's all grown up, she's still getting her hands dirty -- only now she's playing with clay instead of its ugly cousin.
But, she said jokingly, she doesn't get in trouble for it like she did when she was a kid.
"And I make money," she said. "And I have fun."
The local potter recently opened an art gallery in old town Bluffton. Fishbone Gallery & Gifts on Calhoun Street offers a wide variety of functional and decorative art -- from serving trays to wind chimes and handmade ornaments.
Slough's gallery also features the work of several other local artists. Customers can browse the shop for handcrafted candles and soaps, jewelry, metal sculptures, photography, wood-carved pieces and paintings.
Fishbone will join the Fall Art Walk on Nov. 4 in old town Bluffton. The walk also will serve as the gallery's grand opening. Its featured artists will be on hand to meet the public and answer questions.
"We have some really wonderful, special artists that I feature in here, and so we're like a family," Slough said.
Slough has more than 40 years experience creating clay pottery. Before opening her gallery Sept. 15, Slough worked out of her home studio in Beaufort off and on for about 20 years. Slough and her family moved to Beaufort 27 years ago from Springfield, Ohio. Now she and her husband, Paul, are in the process of moving to Bluffton.
"It's been great," she said about business in Bluffton so far. "I'm so thrilled and so blessed that we've gotten such good comments and feedback. ... Bluffton residents have come in, and they've welcomed me. So I think that's a really good seal of approval."
Prior to moving to Beaufort, Slough owned and operated a large ceramic and pottery studio in Ohio for about 18 years. The self-taught artist does not use a potter's wheel or slab roller, as she said most potters do. Instead she uses a good, old-fashioned rolling pin to roll out the clay.
"I guess it kind of goes back to when I was little and I played in the mud," Slough said.
After rolling the clay, she shapes it, fires it in the kiln, applies glaze and fires it again. Sometimes she uses specially made stamps to impress designs on the pottery and then paints them. She even incorporates oyster shells into some of her work.
Slough said she enjoys reusing products for her artwork. If she sees an old, beat-up table at a yard sale, she might fix it up with some paint. The wood on her plaques comes from the old Albergotti Creek dock in Beaufort. She said after the dock was torn down, she bought some of the wood for her art projects.
"I feel like it's real important to save what is our history and reuse it," she said.