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FRIEND OF ARQ FEATURE: Kassandra Thatcher

kassandra thatcher

August is a month of waning light, with the slow rumble of summer getting ever softer. To match that feeling, we talked to Kassandra this month about the intricacies and allure of form, light, process, and inspiration. Enjoy <3

Kassandra, we were instantly drawn to your work upon seeing it and are so glad to be talking with you today. For those who don’t know, you make sculptural lighting with ceramic bases that call to mind the connection between earthen materials and light. Can you tell us about the path that brought you to this type of practice and where you are today?

I was always really drawn to making things out of clay as a child and that carried through to high school where I started to take it more seriously. I secretly wanted to be a ceramicist then but never thought that was a career I could pursue because I wasn’t into making pots and mugs and at the time there weren’t many examples for me of people using clay as a material outside the pottery space. I ended up as a poetry major, and I was a bit lost in my direction but always sort of came back to this desire to express myself through form. I think because of my time spent exploring other formal materials, words mostly but wood, metal, etc, I became more fixated on the idea that content and meaning could arrive by focusing exclusively on form. That was more or less how I arrived at my obsession with making forms. How I arrived here specifically is mostly due to chance encounters and a lot of trust in the process. Not in a woo-woo way... I was introduced to the world of collectible design by finding myself with a freelance production gig for an artist whilst I also was coming back to this early desire to be a ceramicist. So decided to quit my desk job and get a restaurant job and just go for it. Kind of the most bold I’ve ever been was in that act.

Something that makes your pieces so uniquely beautiful is the variety of ways in which they engage with light. Beyond your sconces and lamps being literal sources of light (light bulb and all), the curvatures of each line and the colors and textures absorb, reflect, and shadow alike. Can you talk to us about light as a medium in your art practice?

I grew up in a very thoughtfully lit home, the lights were very deliberately chosen and were always dimmed to the right temperature. So I had a built-in love for how light could create a mood and how powerful it could be in that. I came to working with light in my practice mostly from an exercise I learned in poetry workshops in college where you’re given a series of constraints that are meant to open yourself up to more possibilities for meaning. Light was like that for me. It was a constraint that allowed me to be a lot more free than I could have ever been if the path ahead was blank. I like that I have to build around a ‘built-in idea’. Knowing that I have to account for how and where light will emanate and diffuse and bounce adds a bit more wonder and excitement for me. And then there’s the experience of seeing the two, light and sculpture, combined once the piece is finished. I feel a real true joy in seeing how they make something on their own, something I don’t have a hand in because I can’t always predict it.

Working with clay is a grounding experience. A material that both invites and responds to touch in all of its malleable and rigid forms. What called you to work with clay and how does the material itself inform your practice? Do you work with any other materials currently, or plan to in the future?

I feel like I’ve unintentionally answered this question a bit already so I hope I won’t repeat myself. Clay is a very anthropomorphic material in a lot of ways. I love it because it can at once do whatever you want it to do - things that other rigid materials could never - but it also has a lot of boundaries. Moments where the clay starts to sag or crack or lift and you’re like, ‘oh ok fine I guess I can’t keep working right now’ or ‘I guess you won’t let me do this thing I really want to do.’ So there are times when you are in control and times when it’s in control of you, which really keeps me invested in it. I’ve been talking for at least a year and a half about making a series of sconces cast in aluminum. I love the look of the material and I know that light would reflect off it so beautifully. So that’s been in the works and I’m hoping to release the collection early next year.

We love to ask all of the artists we speak with about their sources of creativity and inspiration. When the well runs dry, so to speak, where do you turn? What kind of input and stimulus centers you in your art practice, and reliably provides what we all call “inspiration”?

I don’t know that my answer to this is particularly romantic but when the well runs dry for me, I know it’s time for me to take a step back. I’m so zoomed in in my practice and I’ve learned that when I’m not feeling inspired I really just need to zoom out and start registering what’s around me. I find a lot of inspiration in landscapes and objects and people, and when I’m able to really see the things around me, not in a clenched effort to get inspired but just in a more present and aware and back in my body sort of way, that can be really stimulating for me. That, and also choreography and painting — Cunningham, Bausch, Miro, Matisse. Those are two art forms I do constantly come back to when I need inspiration that’s already ripe with visual meaning.

Kassandra on Instagram: @_kassandrathatcher_

Kassandra online: www.kassandrathatcher.com

Photos by: Maddy Rotman @maddyrotman