by Natalie Saar

Many artists face a tricky task when creating: they have to make still art come to life. It's even harder when the medium used is something that's not easy to manipulate. However, this space is where sculptor Trish Classe Gianakis thrives.

This New York-based artist has found a way to make her ceramics appear lifelike, and the secret to this magic lies in her inspiration. “Human emotions inspire my work. I depict the body, mainly faces, touching on themes of humanity with facial expressions or position to convey emotional turmoil, peace and survival,” Trish explains.


Ceramics are what Trish has become known for, and the reason why transpires when you learn about her long history with them. “I starting working in ceramics at Arizona State University, where I learned Raku-firing technique. After completing my Bachelors, I moved to the East Coast to get my Masters of Fine Arts degree at the School of Visual Arts in NY. For 20+ years, I have been creating ceramics with mixed media.”

However, it was a health issue that caused Trish to fall back in love with her art. “What inspired me to get serious about my artwork was getting diagnosed with cancer. My journey to recovery was creating artwork while healing from treatment and surgeries,” she says. “It’s hard to believe it took cancer to bring me back to my art, doing what I love and surviving.”

During this journey, Trish has continued to make art in her favorite styles, including Raku. But, what is Raku? “The Japanese invented Raku in the 1500’s. Raku is different because it’s an extremely high outdoor kiln fire at a quick rate and a quick reduction after which the first gas-fired ceramics are ready to be removed.” Trish continues, “Next, the ceramics are placed in a container with combustible materials. When the hot ceramics get placed into the container, fire ignites and the carbons from the burned materials make the surface of the clay to turn black.” The end result is a glaze that produces “a broad spectrum of metallic, matte and cracked surfaces, with variations in shades of copper, cobalt blue, and white crackle, to name a few. With these glazes the blackened effects on the ceramic surface, it creates inherent drama and beauty, which is perfect for the visual expressions I am trying to project.”

This intense heat and process can certainly be seen in the final product of many of Trish’s pieces, some of which you may need to take a double-take of to make sure they aren’t moving. Hundreds were able to see these pieces at RAW Queens presents CONNECT. “I really felt challenged with the showcase. I displayed my artwork in an immersive installation where all of my sculptures were connected to each other with fiber optic wire. My inspiration was the title of the show to connect artwork in my booth display. The reaction by everyone who stopped by my space was extremely positive. It was really quite nice to get such positive feedback; no one had ever seen anything like what I had created before with my artwork and installation. One person even sketched my artwork on display.”

If Trish has one piece of advice for young sculptors who would like to shape their futures, it’s this: “Working with ceramics is like working with something that is alive; you cannot force the clay while sculpting but rather work with the clay. Don’t get too attached to your artwork, especially Raku, sometimes pieces break from the extreme heat of fire shock. Lastly, don’t give up and enjoy making your art.”