Ceramicist and painter Margarete Marks (née Heymann) was born in 1899 to a wealthy Jewish family in Cologne, Germany. Her daughter, Frances, has described her life in exile in England as 'an upper class German woman living in working class London' (Camden New Journal, 5 April 2007). She studied painting at the College of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Cologne and the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademie der Bildenden Künste) in Düsseldorf, before joining Johannes Itten's progressive preliminary course at the Weimar Bauhaus in 1920. The following year she was accepted onto a trial term at the ceramics workshop directed by Gerhard Marcks, while also attending courses taught by Georg Muche, Paul Klee and Gertrud Grunow. Although Marks left the Bauhaus early, in autumn 1921, in somewhat unclear circumstances, its teachings had a lasting impact on her work, enabling her to absorb and synthesise various strands of modernism, and to retain a particular interest in geometric form and colour. In 1923, together with her husband, Gustav Loebenstein, Marks founded the Haël Workshops for artistic ceramics in Marwitz, near Berlin, from which her distinctive designs were exported to prestigious clients in America and the UK, including Heal's and Liberty stores in London, thus bringing Bauhaus modernism into the British domestic sphere. After her husband's death in a car accident in 1928, Marks continued to run the business until 1934, when the Nazis forced her - as a Jew - to sell the factory (which had employed over 100 staff at its peak) at a price far below market value, to a member of the party. Her own works were labelled 'degenerate' by the regime, and featured in the Nazi propaganda publication Der Angriff in 1934, juxtaposed against ceramics produced by Nazi-approved Hedwig Bollhagen, who had taken over the factory.


Marks subsequently travelled to Palestine, visiting potteries in Jerusalem, as part of an unsuccessful attempt to relocate her business, before immigrating to Britain in 1936, helped by connections to the export manager at Heal's store in London. Moving to Stoke-on-Trent, the centre of the UK ceramics' industry, she initially taught at Burslem School of Art (where she held a solo exhibition in 1937) and worked for the renowned Minton Pottery, where one of her own avant-garde forms was reproduced, but she was unable to recapture her earlier commercial success, faced with a more conservative British audience. The Bloomsbury Gallery, London held a solo exhibition of her work in 1938 and in July of the same year, one of her watercolour landscapes was featured in the final section ('Artists now working in England') in the Exhibition of Twentieth Century German Art, held at the New Burlington Galleries, as a riposte to the Nazi's Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937.


Following her second marriage to Harold Marks in 1938 (whose surname she adopted), Marks founded her own studio, Greta Pottery (with studio mark 'GP') which she had to close in 1940.

Her daughter Frances was born in 1941. At the end of the war, Marks resumed ceramic production in her studio and studied painting, drawing and lithography at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, London. Postwar, Marks had one woman exhibitions at the Redfern Gallery (1954) and Roland, Browse & Delbanco (1956); she also regularly exhibited with Ben Uri, showing a range of works in its annual exhibitions (and selling art fairs) from the 1950s to the 1980s; she also held solo shows in 1953, 1960 and 1979, and a two-person show with fellow émigré, painter, Henry Sanders, in 1970, which featured ceramics, mosaics and paintings. According to her daughter, 'ceramics and painting were of equal importance throughout my mother's life' (Morning Star, 2019). Marks also lectured on From Bauhaus to Minimal Art as part of Ben Uri's winter lecture series in 1979. Marks also produced silverware and designed two large-scale murals for office buildings in Bradford in 1960 and 1966 (the 1960 mural has been relocated and is on view at City House, Cheapside, Bradford).


Marks died in London in 1990. Posthumously, a joint exhibition with fellow émigrée, Pamina Liebert-Mahrenholz was held at the Boundary Gallery, London (2008), and a retrospective at Haël Pottery (2006), while her work has been exhibited in contemporary contexts at Ben Uri in 2005 and 2011. Marks' work is represented in UK collections, including Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, British Museum and the V&A, London; the largest collection of her ceramics in the UK is held at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.