Tasha Marks is a food historian and the founder of AVM Curiosities, which she set up in 2011, a year after graduating from Sussex with an Art History BA.
Tasha takes inspiration from historical cookbooks to create edible art, championing the use of food as an artistic medium. AVM has been involved in projects ranging from museum-style exhibitions and sculptural installations to lectures and limited-edition confectionery.
What was your first job?
My very first job was as an assistant manager (Sundays only) at my local Cancer Research charity shop. This was because no one else wanted to work Sundays, but my 16-year-old self felt very empowered to be in such a position of relative authority!
Who's influenced your life most (and why)?
My partner and my family have been a massive influence on me; their endless support in whatever venture I embark on, plus my Mum’s positivity and love of life will forever make me look at the world in a different way.
What's the best piece of advice you could give someone?
Follow your passions but don’t forget to experiment and try lots of different things. Collaborate with others but make sure you find your niche. Play hard, work harder, and above all, love what you do.
What's the skill you'd most like to have?
I wish I could speak another language.
What are you passionate about?
I’m obsessive about food and art, but passionate about too many things to list!
Who's your hero/heroine?
My food hero would have to be Ivan Day; he recreates incredibly complex historical recipes using the original methods and equipment. However, the sculptor Kate MccGwire has also been a massive influence on my work and me. Her work ethic and practice is of endless inspiration, she taught me the power of craftsmanship and what it means to be an artist.
What's your favourite quote or motto?
‘Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, and art is knowing which ones to keep’ - Picasso
Artists reframe the world, their work can be provocative or seductive, aesthetically pleasing or visually jarring, but it all comes down to storytelling, a trait which defies the boundaries of medium.” Tasha Marks
What attracted you to studying at Sussex and did you have a goal already in mind when you arrived on campus?
The interdisciplinary nature of the courses at Sussex and it’s reputation are what attracted me initially, but from the moment I stepped on the campus I knew Sussex was the place for me, there was some sort of gut feeling about it that I hadn’t experienced at any other university.
What are your favourite memories of Sussex?
From the unbridled freedom of that first year living on campus, to the long hours spent in the library in dissertation season, I loved it all.
Your job is very ‘Sussex’, in the sense that it is extraordinarily interdisciplinary – what part of the Sussex experience has helped you the most in your career?
In my final year of Art History I was taught a module called ‘The Art of the Table’ by Ann Eatwell, it changed the entire direction of my interests and planted the seed for the company I have today. Ann was one of the guest lecturers from the V&A that teach as part of the Art History BA at Sussex, the module changes every year depending on the curator or expert who is free. The year before it was Chinese Ceramics in that same module, so it feels a bit like fate that I got to study food history at all.
What period in history interests you most?
I have hugely varied interests but the Elizabethan era was a pretty exciting time and something I often revisit. The birth of dessert as we know it happened in the 16th century, not to mention the fantastical banquets and feasts.
Your work blurs the boundaries between art and food. How would you define the role of an artist?
Artists reframe the world, their work can be provocative or seductive, aesthetically pleasing or visually jarring, but it all comes down to storytelling, a trait which defies the boundaries of medium.
You set up your company, AVM Curiosities, in 2011. Was entrepreneurism something that always appealed to you?
I realised very soon after graduating that I wanted to work for myself. The lack of paid opportunities in the arts meant that I knew I was going to have to work for little or no money for a while, and thought that if that was the case I at least wanted to do it on my terms and shape my own experience. This could have been a disastrous move but it worked out and I’ve never looked back.
What qualities do you most admire in other people?
Kindness, creativity and compassion.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement?
It’s a toss up between being published in the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, designing my Selfridges window for Bright Young Things 2013, and the work I created for the Istanbul Design Biennial, which is my biggest sugar installation to date.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
It’s nice to be nice.
Awards and recognition
- Grey Goose Iconoclast of Taste 2013
- Selfridges Bright Young Thing 2013
- Young British Foodie 2013 – Experimental Finalist
Follow AVM Curiosities on Twitter at@AVMCuriosities