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Credit: Hilton Carter
Class of 2020

Class of 2020: How Ceramist Marissa McInturff Is Brilliantly Rethinking Basic Spatial Designs—Starting With Plant Pots

published Oct 22, 2019
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Who: Marissa McInturff, Barcelona-based ceramist behind Mari Masot
Nominated by: Hilton Carter, plant and interiors stylist and author of “Wild at Home”
Where to follow her: Instagram

Apartment Therapy’s Class of 2020 Design Changemakers is a specially-selected group of the 20 people in the design world everyone should know about by next year. We asked experts (and you!) to tell us who they think should be included—see the rest of the nominees here.

Why Marissa is part of the Class of 2020: “If I were to select a rising star it would be Marissa McInturff. Marissa is an American born artist and designer living in Barcelona and she has an incredible ceramic company, Mari Masot. She’s a friend of a friend but I keep up with her via Instagram (@marimasot). I love her ceramics because they are just so striking in color and shape. I’d use them for plants but honestly feel bad doing so because each is a work of art. Her content and how she showcases her work is so well crafted and unique. She deserves the shine because works really hard at what she does and it shows.” Hilton Carter, plant and interiors stylist and author of “Wild at Home”

If “try and you shall succeed” were personified, it would arguably be Marissa McInturff. Exhibit A: After moving to Barcelona in 2014 and waiting to receive a work permit, the former food stylist managed to pick up ceramics and start her own local business, Mari Masot, in the process. Oh, and all in just three and a half years.

“By the time I got my work permit, I was ready to make the shift and start working in ceramics only,” Marissa adds. Said shift has since translated into an ingenious level of craftsmanship that reads far from novice. Take her current collection, for example—a handmade series of playful plant pot sets, specially designed with colorful mix-and-match drainage plates in mind. “The little dish underneath always seemed like an afterthought, so I started making it become part of the sculptural element of the piece,” she says of the unique, pretty-meets-practical series. “Then it was just about interchanging them, and the idea that you can even take the top off and switch out another one.” 

Credit: Carlos Ojeda Jimenez

An eye for design has seemingly always been hardwired into the Maryland native’s DNA—she grew up with an architect father, then later studied the same field. It’s clear that spatial-focused background takes the forefront when it comes to bringing her vastly dimensional pieces to life, but Marissa also leans heavily into her current Barcelona home base for design influence. Gushing over the area’s rich colors, textures, and even a staircase built into the coastline, the clay mastermind explains that she loves “taking something natural and forming it into something architectural,” hence why her current pot line can be defined as “the harmonious interaction between nature and human creativity.” We spoke with the self-made ceramist on her influential upbringing, the overall shifting design aesthetic, and her incredible geometric dinnerware unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. 

Apartment Therapy: What do you remember as being design inspirations growing up? What is your inspiration now?

Marissa McInturff: I grew up in a house that was constantly changing. My dad is an architect, and when we moved into our house, it was barely done—like we used ladders instead of stairs. That was my whole childhood. And I loved it. Just the consciousness of space and architectural elements. And the ideas of things shifting and changing all the time. That has something to do with my work—I like the idea that I create the framework, but then you plant something in it, and it continues to grow and change. I’m always very influenced by where I am, and [Barcelona] in particular is really inspiring to me. My studio’s neighborhood is sort of industrial, and I think a lot of the forms that I started working with were really inspired by these little machine-part molds that were for sale in a shop nearby. The building was filled with thousands of these molds, made of wood and painted red and black and blue. They were all just like little sculptures and they were amazing. 

Credit: Marissa McInturff

AT: What’s your favorite project you worked on in 2019 so far? (and why?)

MM:  Something that really changed the way I saw my own work and was just a revelation for me was working with a young photographer here who’s also a dancer. He has a really interesting perspective of my work because, seeing it as a dancer, he really relates it to the human body and motion. That’s why I love collaborations because they make you see your work in a completely different way and then it just grows so much from there. Aside from that, I think taking the concept of the plant pots that I’m doing—having them all fit together and be interchangeable—really tightened up this year. And it was really big just realizing that my technical skill had gotten to a point where I can do that because, in this whole process, I’ve been learning. It’s not like I’ve been working with ceramics for 25 years. It’s all pretty new to me and I’m still sort of figuring it all out.

AT: Is there a specific piece or design of yours that you think is particularly indicative of who you are or what you’re trying to do?

MM: I think the whole plant pot line, honestly. It’s hard to pick just one because each piece has its own little personality, and then you switch them up and they have a different personality. I’ve also done a few constructed plates—I don’t do them for wholesale clients, so it’s become something that I do for myself for fun. They have these geometric elements constructed onto them, and the idea is that you can arrange the food in an artful way. Those really sum up my whole perspective in a lot of ways because it’s very architectural and is about the presentation of food, which is where I came from. And they also have this feel of being organic, but also very constructed. Every once in a while, I do pieces for food presentation that also feel like you could occupy them—like if they were on a bigger scale, you could get inside of them and they would actually be an interesting place to be. I think these are the most personal to me.

Credit: Carlos Ojeda Jimenez

AT: What three words would you use to describe your work or style?

MM:   Functional ceramic art.

AT: What makes you feel at home in your own space?

MM: Art by friends. I have a big collection of sculptures and paintings and everything by friends and those are really important. They’re pieces that I love on their own, but then they’re also attached to people that I love. Plants are huge for me and always have been—they’re almost like pets. I think art and plants really make me feel at home, like the space is my own. Oh, and my cats.

AT: Any big plans for 2020 or beyond you can share with us?

MM:  I am planning on releasing a few new lines—the one that I’d like to focus on the most is the series of constructed plates. I’m working on two different collections of vases because I also do love cut flowers, how spectacular and changing they can be. I’d like to get into tiles, like architectural tiles. I’m also collaborating with some other artists and I’m interested to see what will come from that.

Credit: Marissa McInturff

AT: What three words would you use to describe where you see the design world going in 2020?

MM: Sustainable, handmade, and conscientious. I’m seeing that a lot of larger retailers are starting to recognize that there’s an aesthetic for a handmade look. And I think people are really responding to that aesthetic because it just feels so personal. But I think people are also becoming more aware of small producers and more handmade and sustainable practices—and individuals.

AT: What legacy do you hope to leave?

AG: My goal is to provide a new perspective on how to approach tools we use in everyday life.  For making pieces that both stand alone as sculptures, but also provide the structure to create a sculpture that grows and changes and evolves once it’s been brought into the home of the collector. Sort of like a lifelong collaboration. And to just leave behind beauty, happiness, and healthy, breathing plants.