Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview: Marianne Kasparian

Marianne Kasparian, more commonly known as Mak, is the owner and artist behind MakuStudio. Creating work from Raku, she makes pieces of astounding quality and beauty. The pieces she makes are organic, earthy, and fine examples of the technique she so adores. Mak travels the country, doing trade shows and selling her work. She also sells online via her website and her Etsy shop. For more examples of her work, CLICK HERE to visit her website and CLICK HERE to visit her Etsy shop.

Andrew Thornton: You work primarily with raku, can you describe how you first became interested in this ceramic technique and what appealed to you?

Marianne Kasparian: I love raku! It is truly my passion. I took 3 years of ceramics in high school and absolutely adored it. Unfortunately, as my life progressed, I did not touch clay again for about 15 years. It was then that I started doing some serious soul searching...trying to figure out my purpose in life and find my passion. Tapping into my love for clay, I took a ceramics class in
Sedona, AZ in 2000. It was there that I did my first raku firing and was instantly hooked! I am so drawn to raku. I love the fire, the earthiness, the matte black of the smoke. I love not knowing exactly how a piece will turn out as I pull it out of the reduction bin. I love the perfectness of the imperfections. I love all the creative possibilities with raku and the fact that there is no right or wrong.

AT: How does a typical day in the studio progress? Can you describe your artistic process?

There is no "typical" in my day in the studio! My mind doesn't work like that! I can say that for the most part, certain days I work on creating pieces with the wet clay. Other days are strictly devoted to glazing and others just firing. On the days that I am creating, I usually start the creative juices with just pinching off a lump of clay and playing...anything goes. I set no limits, nor tell myself that I "have" to make something specific. Other times, I begin playing with the clay and try to get out an idea that's been churning around in my head for months. Other times, my pieces reflect my view of things that I've seen in nature...the hummingbird that comes and sits on a limb in front of my studio space, patterns in the clouds in the killer Arizona sunsets. Or, things that I've picked up off the ground like chards of glass, rusty screws, twigs, etc.

As far as the actual process of getting to my final product:
*first I create the pieces
*then let them dry and sand the pieces to make sure backs are smooth and there are no sharp protrusions of clay
*then I bisque fire them in an electric kiln to harden them and get them ready for glazing
*then I wash the pieces to get any clay dust off them so that the glazes look good on the final pieces
*then I glaze the pieces (this is the most time consuming!)
*then I raku fire the pieces in an outdoor kiln (which my husband and I built ourselves).

The raku firing involves a fast firing that goes to over 1800 degrees F (for the most part), then pulling the pieces out of the kiln while they are red hot using special gloves and tongs and placing them in a reduction chamber (small can) filled with organic materials such as newspaper, leaves or sawdust; the organic materials catch on fire and the lid is then placed on the can; the fire wants oxygen to keep going and pulls it out of the glazes themselves; smoke is created, creating the matte black look of raku wherever there is no glaze; the pieces are left in the can to cool, then removed and scrubbed clean of the ashes and voila!

There are many variables involved such as the weather...temperature outside, wind; how fast I go from the kiln to the can; when I put the lid on and many more!

AT: What an amazing process! And an amazing journey to get to this point! Can you tell me what it was like to see your work incorporated into someone else's jewelry design for the first time?

MK: It was really beyond my wildest imagination! I am so fascinated and constantly intrigued and amazed by the creations of others using my work. I am so grateful that my work inspires others in their own creations. I think that is what I strive for...for others to be inspired by what I do and what I create.

AT: Speaking of inspiring, what do you do to keep inspired and do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

MK: I just took an intensive three day raku workshop with some of the masters of raku... Steven Branfman, Jim Romberg and Eduardo Lazo. I'm excited to start incorporating some new glazing and firing techniques into my work! Of course, very exciting is the "Caged Heart" class that Sherry Serafini is teaching at the Bead & Button Show
this June! She is using my raku heart as the focal piece. Thank you Sherry!!! I'm also quite honored to have had one of my raku pendants chosen for the "500 Raku" book by Lark Books coming out this March! Other than that...we shall see...the possibilities are endless! Right now I'm still recovering from Tucson and the workshop!

Thank you to everyone who supports me and my raku! I wouldn't be where I am without you! And, I'm excited to continue my raku journey!


MAKUstudio said...

Thanks so much for the interview Andrew! Hope to see you at the Bead & Button show in June!

Jenni C said...

Thanks for writing up this interview, Andrew.
I always wondered what Raku really entailed, and now I know a little about it. What a fascinating process.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making my day! Those cabs I bought last week were from Sherry Serafini...who couldn't say enought good things about Marianne. Now I see why. I love my cabs even more and can't wait to use them!

peggy aplSEEDS said...

what an interesting process! thanks for sharing this.

Triz Designs said...

great interview!!! love reading all about Mak!!! She's one of my favourite artists and people!!!

Barbara Lewis said...

What a great interview! Having Mak as a neighbor at Tucson gave me a chance to see her wonderful work! Amazing!!! said...

This was a very informative and fun interview! Of course. Marianne is an amazing artist. I feel so fortunate to own some of her Raku pieces. The process is very labor intensive and now we know just how talented and how much work it takes to create one of these little masterpieces.