artist spotlight
Carissa Baktay

share your creative practice:
in conversation with Carissa Baktay

What does it mean to you to join the North Lands Creative network and be part of building a community for glass?


It is important to unite and have a safe space to share our diverse talents in the glass community on an international level. I am always excited to see the member spotlights and gain insight into the work and process of so many talented artists.


Tell us about your work. What influences translate into your art practice?


Unimportantly autobiographical, the core of my recent body of work is an attempt to understand and to make material my memories of land (place) and home (body). As an instinctual maker, my work is the language of my process, a spiritual necessity. My work visits past actions, and the satisfaction found in their repetition until mastery. Drawing squiggly lines on a wall, the innocent delight in washing and perfectly combing hair, the painstaking selection of a perfect rock, simple symbolic items carefully arranged.


What initially captured your imagination about glass?


I took a glassblowing class at the Alberta University of Art in 2007 and was instantly hooked. The exciting physicality of the work, the diverse techniques, the material virtuosity of so many masterful handmakers. It started as an interest in the technical aspects glassblowing that has evolved over the last 15 years, and I am still constantly being inspired by the complexity of the material and its varying intrinsic qualities today. 


I still love the immediacy of hotshop- the excitement and heat, the smells and sounds of the studio, as well as the technical explorations and  the material boundaries. I am also drawn to these boundaries and technique, and the points at which I can push them and change how the material is understood. My glass work has meandered down many different paths through natural evolutions, pragmatic adaptations and spontaneous discoveries and is now more than ever interested in the inherent qualities of the material itself and my own notions of what is possible with glass. 


What’s the significance of the handmade to you?


My work becomes through process, and I gain intimacy with material through my hands. Material labour and process laden techniques are an incentive for me. The choice to work with single strands of glass thread or horse hair means that within my processes I have the opportunity to build a sincere intimacy with the material through different stages, similarly the way a master glassblower hones their technical prowess through endless repetition. I believe that handmade objects are imbued with higher value because of this, one which cannot be separated from the object itself.


What was your route to becoming an artist?


I think I have always been an artist; sewing and painting and collecting as a child. My fascination with hair started early when I apprenticed at a hair salon in my early teens. I was involved in dance and costuming before I decided to go to art school, a choice that has since taken me all over the world and one which I am very thankful for.


02_Baktay, Carissa_ Soft

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?


Currently my practice is a sculptural one that uses a multitude of glass manipulation techniques. I combine blown and hot sculpted components that have been further cold worked or kiln manipulated with hair and other found materials. I have also been using glass threads and roughly made machines in my work since 2016. I am constantly inspired by how far glass can be manipulated, past common recognisability, which still pushes my thread based work today.


How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary glass?


My work is autobiographical, unimportantly so, created through a process of material intimacy. They are personal sculptural explorations that lay out the beginnings of stories; ones which I hope leave space for continuation and further embellishment through the viewer. I think that there are many makers like myself who are thoughtfully combining glass with other materials that challenge where their work fits  within the archaic divisions of art, craft and design. 


Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?


When I started playing with glass thread in 2016, it was essentially an attempt to manipulate glass like textiles and create work that challenged my own material understandings. I saw Icelandic wool and thought to myself  “wouldn’t it be great if I could make glass like that?”. With each new shape, size, glass type, studio layout, the finite parameters of my method were reset. Every piece starts with the construction of a tool or machine to create it, but may deviate from that initial point through many hours of work based on the above mentioned conditions. During the hours spent gathering and spinning, back and forth to the furnace, other ideas and forms come to me that become possibilities for future works, which would function around the creation of other makeshift machinery.

I love artist residencies because the change in place provides an opportunity to refamiliarize myself with my thoughts- almost like a blank slate for making. I relish the opportunity to be resourceful and to adapt my sculptural practice to the studio and materials available. 


Who do you look up to when it comes to aesthetics?


I love the work of Sheila Hicks, Dae uk Kim, Shoplifter.


What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?


I get my inspiration from all over the place! Things that you have to look deeply at- tiny over looked things- a stone with a tiny stone cradled into it, placed there by the wind, or the flow of a plant moving around an obstacle. I find inspiration in bodies and movement- shapes growing and pulling and flexing, mimicking happenings that go unseen in nature. Bodies in space influence a lot of my forms, as well as my processes. I notice them both in my dance practice as well as the process of glassblowing, which is in itself a dance- a physical act with attention to the body and fluidity in space. I have also been very interested in costuming- both for humans and animals, historically and in contemporary terms and within that the paradigm of perceived or overcompensated beauty.




Carissa Baktay

Carissa Baktay is a multi-media sculptor, sharing her time between Iceland and Alberta. Her process based practice is deeply connected to material and memory, and uses glass making as part of her deconstruction/construction process. By collecting, repurposing and transforming materials, she transforms their presence in space and presents a new poetic material understanding that shares the borders between art, craft and design.