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Sculptor and glass artist Mary Shaffer was born in Walterboro, South Carolina, in 1947. As a child she lived in South America and her first language was Spanish. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied illustration and minored in painting. Having a mother who believed strongly in the value of travel as education, she also attended the Ecole d’Humanite in Goldern, Switzerland, for several years.

Shaffer is recognized worldwide as one of the founding artists of the American Studio Glass Movement. In the early 1970s she adapted an auto industry technique for shaping windshield glass into a “mid-air slumping,” process which allowed her to move glass in a particular way as it was heated. She then began mixing glass and metal tools, casting, dipping and slumping glass from objects found in flea markets and junk yards, and innovatively extending her materials to include “light, bronze, steel, stone and glass, water and sound.”