Gina Mars is a ceramic artist who specializes in gorgeous raku! I asked if she would allow me to feature her in my blog and she kindly agreed, and told me her Raku work will be featured in the new book 500 Raku Pieces, scheduled for publication in January of 2011. This really thrilled me, because three years ago, I got the Lark book, 500 Beaded Objects as a birthday gift, and it was what inspired me to start beading. That provided a logical first question.
How did you begin making ceramic art?
I became a ceramic artist in college while studying to be a history teacher. I had to take an elective and decided ceramics could be fun and easy. My professor thought I was very good on the potter’s wheel and offered me a full scholarship for undergraduate and graduate work in teaching and ceramics. Because I came from a poor family, I could not afford any more schooling anyway, and the scholarship was a blessing. After finishing college, I continued to teach at the college level and at the high school level until I decided to have a family. A few years later, I opened Mars Pottery and have been in business for 24 years. All my work is created in my Huntington Station, NY studio that is fully equipped with everything I need.
I enjoy raku because of the brilliant colors and quick firing technique. You can fire a raku kiln in 20 minutes, as opposed to 12 hours for a regular kiln. Each raku piece is glazed and then placed in a raku kiln. It heats up to 2000 degrees and then you go into the kiln with gloves and remove the piece. It is then placed into a pit with combustibles such as straw to create a fire. Then the pit is covered with a can to smother the piece. The pit can no longer get oxygen so the glaze interacts with the smoke and creates the colors. Then the piece is taken out and sprayed with water.
What inspires your work?
My latest inspiration comes from middle eastern architecture. The pieces have minaret like tops on them and some are covered in gold or copper leaf. I also enjoy adding sculptural elements to my work.
Do you participate in any ceramics or raku-specific organizations?
Once a year I attend the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) which is a major conference for ceramic artists all over the world. In 2011, it will be in Florida.
I conduct over 50 workshops all over the world each year and sell my work through my web site, galleries, and shows in the New York area. My work can be found as far away as New Zealand.