“Unfolding over thresholds both physical and imaginary, Baktay’s work is a journey towards emotional honesty through the process of making as a means of discovery. Utilizing glass’s materiality, and its immateriality formally; texture, line and weight are tools to embody personal narratives.”
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE, INTERVIEW BY ARKATYIIS MILLER, 2015
WITH UPDATES FROM 2019
Of Things I Can’t Unthink (2016), plaster and teeth, 200cm x 350cm x 200cm
Arkatyiis Miller: When did you graduate ACAD? What was your major? Do you continue to work in this area or did you change areas of interest?
Carissa Baktay: I graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Art, majoring in Glass in 2011. I am currently completing a Masters in Glass Art and Science, a collaborative degree between an MFA and a BSc in Chemistry in Lisbon Portugal.
MILLER: A lot of graduates use the ACAD degree as a creative stepping stone. So, what do you do? How has what you do evolved since graduation? How did your education at ACAD direct your career?
BAKTAY: I don’t think “stepping-stone” is the right word. I think that phrase downplays the importance of the learning process and the self-growth and connections one makes on their academic journey. “Prerequisite” is a more fitting term. I think a bachelor degree or any type of undergraduate entry degree is very important, especially in a technical sense. Coming from a craft-based degree, I learned fundamental techniques and methodologies that are indispensable to me as a maker, whether I utilize them still or not.
I am still working with glass but in different and more interdisciplinary ways. I am a resourceful maker and foremost a materials-lover. My practice has become more so based upon what materials certain work asks to be made from and what I am inspired by, than driven by a specific material while I was at ACAD.
I Fall Where You Leave (2017), glass and wheat, 70cm x 80cm x 40cm
MILLER: What would you like to be recognized for?
BAKTAY: Of course I would like to be acknowledged for my artistic practice, at any level. It is a great feeling to put your heart into what you do and have others respond positively to it. I don’t do any community-based projects or teaching but it is certainly something I would be interested in doing in the future.
MILLER: Given your experience, what advice would you give a student when it comes to establishing a creative business?
BAKTAY: Don’t be afraid to stumble and don’t be too hard on yourself. It seems many people leave the gates running and give up a bit too soon. Any new business is difficult at the beginning and art/craft practices are even more so. I think you have to have a thick skin, believe in yourself, and don’t sweat the rejection letters.
MILLER: What insights did your years at ACAD give you when looking at things?
BAKTAY: I have certainly developed a deep sense of curiosity for seemingly ordinary things. I look at things more deeply, see details differently, and enjoy little subtleties that I did not notice before art school.
Bow (2018), glass and copper, 42cm x 55cm x 18cm
MILLER: After graduation, what obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
BAKTAY: It was difficult to get a job in what I thought my area of expertise was. I was awarded a fellowship in glass at the Mississauga Living Arts Center in Fall 2011 directly after graduating, but at the last minute it became logistically impossible to attend. I also went through a little bit of “material withdrawal” not having access to glass studios and equipment as easily as during my degree. I went to work at Goldray, an architectural glass company, as a Project Manager, where I was able to utilize my knowledge of glass from ACAD and my project management and office administration skills from my experience prior to attending ACAD. From there I did end up moving into Research and Development, and again had access to materials and equipment.
MILLER: How could you imagine ACAD supporting our alumni?
BAKTAY: I recently received two ACAD Alumni Awards, which was an honor. I would like to see more collaboration between the Alumni Program and galleries, perhaps providing more information on collaborations and special Alumni-based calls for submissions or artist in residence programs.
MILLER: Where does art fit into your future?
BAKTAY: I hope to continue to be a maker of some sort for the rest of my life, whether it is in my own practice or a technical collaborator for other artists, or even an educator. I look forward to the journey and discovering what the future holds for me.
Tempo e Espaco (2018), mirror, installation
MILLER: What advice would you give recent graduates regarding the pursuit of an MFA?
BAKTAY: I found out the hard way that a graduate degree is not to be taken lightly. I recommend doing research into who has graduated from the degree as well as the amount and type of work that the instructors produce. If the school is producing successful, ambitious graduates with exciting emerging careers and work that speaks to you personally, it’s a good indication that it could be a fit for you.
Something quite important to me is location; accessibility to materials and resources but also general environmental and interest in one’s surroundings. Are you a city-dweller that loves constant stimulation, bustle and thrives on pressure? Or are you a calmer, more introverted maker, happy to be resourceful and work solo in a scenic or rural environment?
I also think that institutional collaborations are super important, such as other schools or collectives and galleries that the students are encouraged to work with. Does the school have internal galleries, if that is important to you, good library resources, or past visiting artists and lecturers that are interesting to you?
I think it’s important to take one’s time after graduating from an undergraduate degree. It’s very easy to continue trying to make the same work, using the same recipes that have worked in the past. A few years’ experience with a creative business or continuing as an artist part-time while working is a great way to figure out what is important to you. As much as ACAD – and any degree – tries to encourage each student to speak with their most personal creative voice, I believe it is impossible not to make work influenced, and even dictated, by your surroundings. This is the pitfall of making work to please an instructor, department, or fit into a certain geographical or economic niche.
Periphery (2019), dichroic mirror, 2019, variable sizes, installation
Periphery is project started in 2016. Recently shown for Reykjavik Hönnunar Mars 19, it is a series of mirrors; abstractions of natural elements based on drawings and prints made while driving from North to South Iceland. Created in dichroic glass and colored mirror, Periphery presents a playful and whimsical relationship to our natural landscape.
Carissa Baktay is a sculptor from Calgary, currently working as an Artist in Residence in Iceland. Working with glass since 2008, she has earned degrees from Alberta University of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design and Universidade de Nova Lisboa, Portugal. Using experimental technologies and mediums combined with time honoured glass making methods, she has recently been honoured with Canada Council for the Arts and Alberta Foundation for the Arts grants for an exhibition presented at the Alberta Craft Council (updated 2019).