Richmond Art Center

Marisa in Chile

Marisa Burman, Ceramics Department Manager and Teaching Artist, shares her amazing experience visiting Centro de Arte Curaumilla, an art center near Valparaiso, Chile. 

Q: Why did you decide to go to Chile? 

Marisa: I heard about an opportunity to attend a 2-week workshop in Chile with an American ceramic artist named Ayumi Horie. I have always admired her work and I wanted the chance to learn from her, and to make ceramics in a completely different environment. 

Work to fire.

Q: Tell us a little about the art school you visited near Valparaiso, Chile.

Marisa: Centro de Arte Curaumilla is a magical place. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go there, to do it. It was started by a woman named Pelusa Rosenthal who studied ceramics in Colorado, and then returned to Chile to start Curaumilla. They only run workshops during the Summer which is January and February down there. 

Upon arriving there, I felt at home immediately. The food was delicious and the facilities are amazing. The studio and some of the buildings are constructed out of shipping containers, and are really cool. The location is something I can barely describe, but it is on a cliffside studded with cacti overlooking the Pacific Ocean, across the Bay from the port city of Valparaiso; incredibly, incredibly beautiful. 

Q: What was a typical day like? 

Marisa: We would get up, eat breakfast from 8-9am, head to the studio to work on our clay projects or watch demos. We would take a break for lunch at 1:30, go back to the studio and work, take a coffee break at 4pm, then work until dinner at 8pm. We had pisco sours on the deck before dinner every evening. Then after dinner sometimes we watched slide presentations, had discussions, or went back to the studio. They were long days, but we were all filled with energy and inspiration and it didn’t feel long. On a couple of evenings we had parties and danced and sang together. All of the staff were wonderful, and definitely a huge part of the community that we created while there.

Q: How did you fire the work you made during the workshop?

Loaded soda kiln.

Marisa: Curaumilla has a wood-fire kiln and a soda kiln, both of which are special “atmospheric” firings that require a lot of labor in the loading and firing of the kiln and achieve a specific look to the work. We fired the soda kiln twice during the workshop. That particular firing involves spraying sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) dissolved in hot water into the kiln when it is almost at peak temperature, approx. 2375 degrees. The soda binds to the silica in the clay and creates a “glaze”, a shiny look without the application of any glaze. 

Q: What did you see and experience that inspired you? 

Marisa: The other workshop participants were so inspiring. We were a group of women from all over, coming together with this common language of ceramics. We really bonded. I learned a lot about clay but even more so I was inspired by the whole experience, by the friendships and connections I made. 

While we were there we had the idea to put together an online auction that felt like a really important way to give back to Curaumilla. We auctioned off work that was made during the workshop on Instagram. I learned a lot during that process. It felt good to be part of something meaningful that we created together to support this awesome space, all while making and learning more about the material we love. 

For more information or if you have questions, please contact or 510-620-6772.

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