Nina Runsdorf, in conversation with Kassandra Thatcher.
Kassandra is a sculptor and designer based in Los Angeles and New York and a longtime friend of the Runsdorf family. Her collections of sculptures, lamps, and sconces range from soft, round-edged pieces with a fluidity reminiscent of Matisse, to pieces with sharp corners and shadows that give each object a pronounced depth. Kassandra’s work beautifully fuses fine art into personal spaces.
She graciously shared her story and inspirations with us in the atelier.
Nina: Hi Kassandra! I've known you for so many years and have seen you grow and change and evolve, and I am so excited to talk to you about your beautiful designs. My first question is how did it start? When did you know?
Kassandra: How did it start? I think in the back of my head I always knew. I remember I had this conversation with my high school boyfriend, his parents were artists and I remember being at their dinner table one night and they asked me what I wanted to do for a living. I told them I was interested in sculpture and ceramics and they laughed at me - not in a nice way. I just thought okay, well if this very successful artist is laughing at the fact that I want to be an artist, maybe that's unattainable. So I tried to put it aside but I think I kind of always knew.
Nina: How old were you?
Kassandra: I was probably sixteen.
Kassandra: Yeah. My mom says that I was always destined to work with clay.
Nina: And then you went to university, and did you study clay?
Kassandra: No, I didn't study it there. I ended up working at a gallery in Chelsea and there was no creative output. It was the first time that I was working in a field that wasn’t creative and I had a realization of how necessary it was for me to work in a creative industry. So I joined a membership studio and started playing around. Through that membership studio, I met an incredible older woman - very Lily Tomlin energy - and she was this old New York art lady, super chic and cool. She introduced me to an artist named Steve Antonsen. He’s a plaster artist and was looking for a studio assistant so I started working with him. He was making plaster tables, plaster chandeliers - very Giacometti style - and was really successful. I felt very drawn to the medium and decided to go for it.
Nina: That’s amazing. What is your process like and how do you start on a new piece?
Kassandra: It’s a different experience every time. More recently, because I have so many projects going on, I make moodboards of art, of paintings, of colors and sketches I’ve done and try to put things together. From the beginning it was more of an impulse and always very organic.
Nina: And do you think your process has changed over time?
Kassandra: I think it has. It’s become more methodical. At first, I was finding my voice and seeing what worked for me and what I liked. When I started out, I was really interested in biomorphism, it felt very right. I'm very drawn to things that feel like they're in motion and things that feel like they're in gesture and the way shadow hits something and morphs it, so I was starting to think about how I can push myself formally to work with those same ideas.
Nina: What is integral to the work of an artist, do you feel?
Kassandra: That’s a tough question. Quiet. Space. Emotional space, not emotional space from the work but from the world.
Nina: Can you describe two or three important projects that you have completed that you feel really strongly about?
Kassandra: Yeah, I just finished a collection and there are 10 pieces in it. It was really significant for me because it was the first time that I've actively made a whole new collection of work since I started having traction and had created an actual entity for my business. I have this complex about being put in a box and expected to do something. So I felt it was really important for me – and that’s why I said quiet – to think about what my impulses were and what I am drawn to. It really felt like a step in a different direction but still very clearly my work.
Nina: So it’s more of a collection of 10 pieces of your own - things that you wanted to make.
Kassandra: Yeah, and a lot of people in art now make a collection and it all has to be cohesive and the thread has to be pulled through. I was thinking a lot about this as I was making the work, because if you go to a retrospective of someone’s works, you know how the rooms are usually based on years or a project that they had and usually the theme that runs through that is material, not necessarily stylistically similar or thematic things. So I thought even though it is a collection, they do not all necessarily fit together. I personally think they do fit together because I made them at a certain time and they have a certain energy in them and I’m using similar finishes but they also could stand apart on their own.
Nina: The pieces are beautiful, it’s amazing. I have one last question. Is there another medium that you would like to work in besides clay?
Kassandra: Yeah, I would really like to work in aluminum.
Nina: Aluminum? Interesting. Me too. I said the same thing last week.
Nina: Yes, I really want to work with aluminum. The other thing we have in common is I started the company with a flip ring and it’s because I love things that move… you talk about shadows and light and the reason I was so drawn to not modern diamonds, but antique diamonds is because of the way the light hits interacts with them. It feels like this candlelight and can be really romantic.
Kassandra: Yeah, I love that. It can be a really evocative, universal experience to see the way light moves. There’s something really interesting about the way that shapes are informed by their surroundings.
Nina: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I’m so happy you came in and I’m so excited to see your new work.
Kassandra: Thank you for having me.