an interview with Monette Marie Mark
by Huascar Medina | photos by Tyler Strunk, Strunk Photography

Interview between Huascar Medina and Monette Marie Mark of Fire Me Up Ceramics
photo by Tyler Strunk, Strunk Photography

Monette Marie Mark is the owner/artist/instructor at Fire Me Up Ceramics and Fine Art Studios located at 1000 N Kansas Ave, in the NOTO art district. She has a BA in Art, BA in Human Services, and a BA in Psychology, all from Washburn University. She earned her MFA in Ceramics from Wichita University in 2009.

“I was lucky. I got to choose where I wanted to go from the places I applied to. I was blown away by the people of Wichita and the professors. The professor when I applied was brand new and he was so gung-ho! He still is pretty gung-ho. His name is Ted Adler. He was a great teacher- really glad to have him. He wasn’t easy but it was definitely worth it.”

From the moment I met Monette, I sensed that same energy.

“Before Fire Me Up was here, the only other place you could do ceramics was the university. So, the general public and community didn’t have the accessibility to work with clay. Unless, they did it in their homes and if they did it in their homes, you got to have space for a kiln, you got to have space for a wheel – if you work with a wheel. You have to know how to fire your kiln and then, a lot of times, you are forced to buy all of your materials already made, like glaze and things like that. Where we can make our own glazes and do cool glazes, all at the same time. We have space for that.”

What are you trying to provide individuals who are trying to do ceramics in this space?
“Well, not just space. I am trying to provide them with knowledge. There is so much in ceramics. Even I don’t know everything. There are different temperatures for firing. There are all different types of glaze application- decal, lusters…I could go on. There’s a lot. And that’s part of the great thing about ceramics. You never stop learning. I am also providing information to people to learn more about ceramics.”

Fire Me Up Ceramics’ classes and events include:

“Clay Night Out is a hand-building event where you make things like bowls and cups. Things you can do with your hands. We sit around and its very social. Actually, all of our events are very social.”

WINE + WHEEL – 3rd Thursday of the month

“Our Wine + Wheel Night you bring wine. It’s BYOB. I don’t sell them. We have really nice snacks for people. And then we try to get our wine glasses as dirty as possible. Again, that is very fun, too. We have a good time with that.”

GET DIRTY WITH YOUR DATE NIGHT – Final Friday of the month
“Our Date Night is for any two people. We’ve had father/daughters and mothers/sons. A couple of times, I’ve had a couple groups of girls hijack my date night. They didn’t know they could schedule their own girls’ night out –which they can. If they want to call me, I can schedule.”

FAMILY DAY – Every Saturday
“Saturday is Family Day and it’s not BYOB. It’s geared more towards kids but we have all ages. It’s the same kind of chill. I don’t let kids under six [years old] on the wheels for safety reasons but we do hand-building with them. We make little critters. A lot of Pokémon. Pokémon is really popular. I had this one kid make this huge monster. It was at least 14 inches- we just go at it. It doesn’t matter what it is. If they have an idea, we guide them. We try to inspire, ‘So what do you like? What are you interested in?’”
Ceramics, what would the benefit be for them?

“It’s different for a lot of people. It’s a stress reliever. It’s therapy. Some people are at high stress jobs or left high stress jobs. We have several types. The people who are just artists and have done it their whole lives, young artists as well or people who have gotten into ceramics as an outlet and a stress release. Because clay is really awesome, to feel it, to touch it. Depending on the type of clay you use, if you don’t like it, you can squish it. It works its way through your fingers. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s an oddly sensual thing. It can be whatever you want it to be. It can be gentle. It can be tough; it can be strong once it has been fired. It is durable once fired. It’s not going anywhere. Unless, you throw it at a brick wall.”

“Let me put it to you this way…There was this guy in here the other day. His daughter/daughter-in-law got him a private lesson. He was retired special forces. He’s been in tons of wars. He made some really neat stuff. He was sitting there on the wheel with his wet clay running through his fingers. He was like, ‘Wow…this is really relaxing. This is so calming’. And I don’t think you can really describe it, so much in words, until you feel it. Feel the clay through your fingers. It’s more like a feeling.”

There are 42 individuals who have studio or shelf space at Fire Me Up Ceramics and Fine Art Studio.

“Before I even bought the building I had all the studios filled…This is more like a co-op than a business. I am responsible for the bills. Every single person here has picked up a paint brush, a paint scraper, put together shelves, they help a lot and organize, you know clean. Everybody has done something. I can’t say enough about the people here because the greatest part is the community. We are a community within a community.” 

Fire Me Up Pull quote
By Huascar Medina

Huascar Medina

Huascar is a poet, writer, and performer who lives in Topeka. He currently works as a freelance copywriter and as the Literary Editor for seveneightfive magazine publishing stories that spotlight literary and artistic events in northeast Kansas. He is the winner of ARTSConnect's 2018 Arty Award for Literary Art.

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