April 19, 1914
Place of birth:
Woodmere, LI, New York
This biography was funded by a grant from
the Graham Foundation for a study of architecture at Black Mountain
Woodworking and Houses by Mary Gregory
After World War I, Mary 'Molly' Gregory’s
father, bought the farm which had belonged to the Gregory family in the
1600s. It was there in Framingham, Massachusetts that Mary spent her childhood.
The family felt that a farm was an ideal environment for rearing children,
a place where they would be close to nature and where they would learn
respect for work and develop resourcefulness.
Molly attended high school at the Beaver Country Day School in
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and enrolled in 1932 at the newly-opened Bennington College
where she majored in sculpture. In 1936 she was a member of the first
Gregory's first job was at the Cambridge School in Weston, Massachusetts
where she taught sculpture and drawing to grades seven through twelve. She
also spent time in the woodworking shop.
Molly first heard about the newly-founded Black Mountain College at
Bennington. She recalls that she was excited by the descriptions of its
beginnings. Although both Bennington and Black Mountain were progressive
schools, there were significant differences and those differences
interested Gregory. She was especially drawn to the curriculum taught by
Josef Albers. Her Bennington roommate, Ruth Bailey, enrolled at Black
Mountain as an apprentice upon graduation from Bennington.
In 1941 Molly was offered a fellowship as Appentice Teacher to teach a
Plastics Workshop and study with Josef
Albers at Black Mountain. She was interested in design and carpentry and
thought Albers’s basic curriculum would provide her with a good
foundation. The following year she was appointed Instructor
in Crafts – a misnomer which was corrected the following year when she was
reappointed as Instructor in Woodworking.
Titles hardly describe Mary Gregory’s role at Black Mountain. From the
beginning she was deeply immersed in college life. Soon after her arrival
most of the men students were drafted or enlisted in the war effort, and
the practical needs of the college demanded her attention. She took over
the woodworking shop which Robert Bliss had set up, and her skills were
essential to the completion of the Studies Building and other construction
projects. Students came to the woodworking shop to build tables, chairs
and bookshelves for their studies. The shop made benches, chests of
drawers, the sign at the college entrance, and anything else needed at the
college. Gregory constructed a large table for the classroom in the
Studies building and benches for the Quiet House, a house of meditation
designed and built by Alex Reed in memory of Mark Dreier. Mark, the nine
year old son of Theodore and Barbara Dreier, was killed in an accident at
the college. Her last project was the renovation of the farm house to
accommodate two families. She also directed the work program, kept the
books for the college farm, and in 1943, when the farmer left without
notification, she took over the running of the farm. She taught at and
summer work camps. She
was a member of the Board of Fellows from June 1945 until her resignation.
In addition to her work as teacher, Mary Gregory designed private
commissions. Her work showed both a respect for craftsmanship and an
imaginative approach to problem solving. A silver service was designed
with dowels and a removable cloth that could be washed. Table supports were bent inward to provide knee space
for the sitter. A rectangular cube could be used either as a low table or
seat. She designed plates as
well as belts of leather and cloth. She also produced a chair redesigned
by Josef Albers from a Mexican model.
Mary Gregory left Black Mountain at the end of the 1947 summer to accept a
position as manager and designer at Woodstock Enterprises in Vermont, a
woodworking shop organized by David Bailey, a former Black
Mountain student. The shop produced custom furniture, cabinetry and other
wood products and had crews which worked on construction and remodeling
projects in the field.
Gregory resigned in 1953 to set up her own woodworking business first in
Lexington and then in
Lincoln, Massachusetts. From 1954-88 the shop did custom work for
interiors as well as furniture design, church furnishings and alter
carvings. As a designer/builder she built houses and made renovations to
existing structures. She taught woodworking and carving at the Concord
Academy, the Belmont Day School, and Shady Hill School.
A walnut and pine sideboard made between 1961 and 1965 was included in the
fall 2003 “The Maker’s Hand: American Studio Furniture, 1940 to 1990" at
the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
A Quaker, Mary Gregory presently lives at The New England Friends Home in
Hingham, Massachusetts where she now makes quilts.
contribution was that you could live creatively simply by the way
you looked at life and the way you lived it. I didn’t learn
technique at Black Mountain. I learned a point of view.” Mary Gregory
Portrait: NC State
Archives, Mary Gregory Papers, P.C. 1895.1.