University of Maine at Presque Isle alum Mark Lusardi has had his work featured alongside the work of artists from around the world in a book on Raku pottery by Steven Branfman, a renowned expert and master of the art form.An exhibition of pieces featured in the book Mastering Raku, as well as a few other select pieces by some of the artists featured in the book - including three by Lusardi - is on display through April at Gorse Mill Studios in Needham, Mass.
"I have used Steven Branfman's books since my college days and it's an honor to be working with him on a first-hand basis," Lusardi said.
The ceramic artist has been doing Raku pottery since the summer of 1985 and was originally introduced to the art form during the summer between his freshman and sophomore year as an Art student at UMPI.
"It was under a recommendation from Andy Giles, my advisor," Lusardi remembered. "He said I needed to take this class, and I fell in love with the ceramic application."
Lusardi, originally from Caribou, now lives in New Richmond, Wis., with his wife and two children, and has a fully functioning studio at his residence. Along with his work as a professional artist, he is a chemist and glaze technician for Continental Clay Company, and conducts a series of workshops at colleges and art centers throughout the upper Midwest.
This past fall, Lusardi attended Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle as a teaching-technical assistant for international potter Linda Christianson. He also was recently accepted into the Concordia College of St. Paul, Minn., Biennial Continental Ceramics Exhibition.
Last spring, Lusardi was introduced to Steven Branfman through the Dakota Pottery Supply in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Impressed with his work, the owners there suggested that Lusardi send some of his Raku images and glaze recipes to Branfman. Not long after, Lusardi received a call from Branfman.
"'This is urgent,' he said. ‘I need slides of your work because I'm in the final stages of my book and I'm going to try to include you,'" Lusardi remembers Branfman telling him. "The final edit of the book was done just days later. It was wonderful that he made that effort to include me in his book."
As he continues his work with Raku, Lusardi credits the University for what he's been able to accomplish so far.
"I get asked all the time where I got my degree and I can proudly say that it was at the University of Maine at Presque Isle," he said. "Even though UMPI is a small school, I have found that the Art program pushed us like it was a graduate school. I'm thankful for the push that the professors gave us. It has helped me focus on my work and get to where I'm at today."
Visit http://picasaweb.google.com/sbranfman1/MasteringRakuExhibition?feat=email# for a photo gallery of the Raku pottery exhibition at Gorse Mill Studios.