The Queue: Ani Kasten
The Queue: Ani Kasten
Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.
↑ This week in The Queue, Minnesota-based ceramist Ani Kasten shares about current projects and what's inspiring her now.
Photo: Courtesy of Ani Kasten
The Queue is our weekly roundup for and by the craft community. Makers, writers, and curators share their shortlist of exciting projects, people to follow, content to consume, and more to help you stay dialed into what's hot in the world of making.
Ani Kasten on virtual exhibitions and spiritual fulfillment
This week, we turn the platform over to Ani Kasten, a full-time practicing studio artist who has been operating Ani Kasten Ceramics since 2005. Ani exhibits and sells her work through galleries around the country, and also sells directly from her studio, through interior designers, and at fine craft shows.
What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make because of the COVID-19 breakout, personally or professionally?
Up until a few weeks ago, I was planning an in-person group show with a number of incredible ceramists including Liz Pechacek, Robert Brady, and Connee Mayeron at my studio in the St. Croix River Valley of Minnesota. And then COVID-19 showed up. Since the outbreak, my heart has been sinking daily watching so many people become ill – and watching my sources of relied-upon income dry up and disappear into an uncertain future. Maintaining good mental health has been a big challenge, such as finding the motivation to keep working in my studio with the onslaught of depressing news.
What’s an art project the craft world might want to pay attention to right now?
The St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour is happening virtually this weekend. Rather than canceling all together, we united as a group of host potteries to make the event thrive in an online platform. I think people need some joy in their lives at this time, and we have been able to make it happen. Since launching the idea for the online tour, we have helped dozens of our artists get their work into an online selling platform and increased our following by several thousand.
What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that you find compelling?
Like everyone in my field, I have been forced to act quickly and make myself a viable business online. I participated in an exhibition through Eutectic Gallery that was conducted entirely online. The quick thinking and proactive attitude of artists, gallery owners, and curators throughout this crisis to keep providing meaningful content in order to delight and entertain their audience has been astounding. If only our government had been this proactive... The gallery hired a videographer and photographer to capture the show and get it online for people to access. They did virtual tours of the gallery and artist talks and interviews through IGTV.
What podcast should we be listening to right now?
I listen for entertainment while I am working in the studio. My favorites are This American Life, Serial, Invisibilia, Savage Lovecast, and Undisclosed.
What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
I listen to several audiobooks per week while I’m working in the studio. A book that really moved me recently, and really touched on the present situation we all find ourselves in, was Educated by Tara Westover. It’s an autobiographical work about a brilliant woman who became a scholar after overcoming her upbringing in a cult-like survivalist mormon family in the wilderness in Idaho. It is an amazing story that's utterly harrowing and uplifting at the same time. It delves deep into the idea of self-reliance – taken to the extreme and the negative consequences of that – and also its power to carry one through crises. I have been cultivating my self-reliance in hopes that it will help me out if I should find myself at the bottom of a deep metaphorical chasm.
If you could purchase any artist's craft work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
When I have a little money to collect, I find myself collecting art by my women peers and mentors. Recently, I have added a beautiful tile piece for the wall by Roberta Massuch. On my wish-list would be one of Liz Pechacek’s sculptural forms, a wall piece by Margaret Boozer, and a sculpture by Ashwini Bhat. The role of women and feminism in art and in craft has become increasingly important to me over the years of my own career development. I notice women artists being more often sidelined or flying below the radar, unnoticed and passed over for career opportunities and such. Yet, throughout my career thus far, it has been women in my field who have given me a chance, or mentored me in the most important ways. Lucy Lacoste was the first significant gallery owner to promote my work, and she has been my advocate for a decade. I spent ten years working closely with Margaret Boozer of Red Dirt Studio, first as an artist-in-residence, and later as a colleague, neighbor and close friend. She was a vital source of guidance and advice who helped me launch my career in ceramics.
Are you binge watching anything right now?
I love TV and am a nightly series binge-watcher with my husband. Recently, we have been enjoying Homeland, The Sinner, Schitt’s Creek, and Kim’s Convenience. I need a perfect balance of fear, adrenaline, blood, and mayhem – and then something to put me to bed with a smile on my face and peace of mind.
What’s your favorite social media post you’ve seen recently?
Social media has been on fire since this all began, and I can’t really point to one single post that jumped out at me. However, I feel that art and craft have gracefully occupied a certain spotlight as an essential mode of spiritual fulfillment for everyone in a time of crisis. It has really become clear how essential artists and craftspeople are to creating beauty and meaning in a downward spiralling vortex of chaos. I have seen great appreciation and generosity of spirit, acts of lifting others up in their time of need coming from the craft and art worlds on social media. Stuck at home, people are loving and appreciating their art collections, experts are offering free services to help get artists viable online, and artists are going out of their way to promote and encourage their peers. It is very encouraging.
Want to hear more from Ani?
Watch this video where Ani shares about her ceramics practice.
Help raise up voices from the craft community
Become an ACC member and support nonprofit craft publishing. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about making and help grow the number of lives craft has touched.