Interview with Tasha Marks food historian and founder of AVM curiosities


I’ve been a massive fan of both AVM curiosities and it’s fonder Tasha Marks ever since I discovered my love of experimental food design and art. AVM (Animal Vegetable Mineral) Curiosities explore the relationships between food and art through events, talks and edible interventions. I was lucky enough to work for Tasha at some of her events as well as helping her put together her window at Selfridges for their “Bright Young Things” showcase. She kindly granted me an interview for this blog to give us a deeper insight in what makes her tick, what AVM Curiosities has been up and what is coming up next. Enjoy.

So I know you studied Art History at Sussex University, can you pinpoint the moment that you decided that a focus on food history was the path you wanted to take? What was the initial inspiration for focusing on food history?

At University I was lucky enough to be offered a final year course on the history of food and dining from 1300s – present by V&A curator Ann Eatwell. Up until then my studies had focused on the origins of museums, specifically cabinets of curiosity, so bringing these two influences together provided a eureka moment where the sensory elements of food and the cerebral nature of the museum could be brought together to create something new.

I hear you have quite the collection of historical books, what would you say are your top three favourites that you return to again and again for inspiration?

My favourites would have to be 1000 Curious Things Worth Knowing c.1850, Sweets: A History of Temptation by Tim Richardson and The Compleat Confectioner by Hannah Glasse.

You worked with Bompas and Parr in the past, what was it like working with them?

A fantastical sticky adventure! Their sky’s-the-limit attitude and creativity was wonderful to be a part of.

So what was the first event you did as AVM Curiosities?

It was the Miracle Berry Banquet, which was a collaboration with the Rambling Restaurant and the Urban Physic Garden. Guests were treated to a three-course meal that explored sweets and sour herbs, ending with a miracle berry* dessert table. (* a miracle berry is a fruit which reverses your taste buds and makes sour things taste sweet)

Out of all the events and interventions AVM Curiosities has created, what would you say has been your favourite?

It’s hard to pick! It would probably be a tie between Toxic Treats: A Dark History of Britain’s Sweets, which was an interactive lecture on the sinister side of counterfeit confectionary in Victorian London, and Ambergris, which was my solo show at Herrick Gallery.

So congratulations! You’ve been chosen by Grey Goose vodka as one of their Iconoclasts Of Taste, could you describe the cocktail you invented for them? I’ve tried it luckily and I must say its yummy! What was the inspiration behind the drink and how to did you come to the final recipe?

I found out where the cocktail would be served before I had come up with the recipe so I wanted to make the drink site specific, make sure that people knew that the Gilbert Scott, St Pancras, would be the best place to premiere it… so I took the opening date of the venue, 1873, and decided to theme the drink around that date. 1873 is one of the latter years of the Pre-Raphaelites so I decided to go for a drink based around Millais’s painting of Ophelia and theme the flavours around the characters last lines in Hamlet where she rants and raves about the flowers. And the drink was served!


You’ve also been chosen as one of Selfridges’ Bright Young Things for 2013 creating your own window display? Could you tell me a little about it?

The Selfridges window installation was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate AVM’s central themes of food, art and history in an ‘Edible Cabinet of Curiosity’, containing everything from an antique hippo skull to 1082 luminous gobstoppers! The window design also complimented my t-shirt and products, which were on sale in store.


So you’re an Iconoclast of Taste, a Bright Young Thing and you’ve giving talks at the V&A. What’s next?

Next I’m working on my most ambitious project to date called, The History of the World in 100 Sweets. It will be launching in early 2014 so the details are all top secret for now, but you can join my mailing list to be the first in the know…

Tasha Marks | Animal Vegetable Mineral | October 2013

Image Credits:
Tasha Marks – Photo Philip Sinden courtesy of Grey Goose,
Edible Art Class – The London Sinner,
Bright Young Things – Selfridges,


Conran Shop Work Experience

So I spent last week on my hands and knees and in variously contorted positions drilling multiple tiny holes in MDF at the Conran shop in Chelsea.  Me and a fellow Brighton-er Emma spent three days drilling the holes to thread wire into to give the illusion of grassy knolls for the Easter window display.

The hills provided a back drop for the wire bunnies and chickens the Conran had commissioned from the artist Julieann Worrall Hood.

The fourth day, which was supposed to be used to finish the drilling but we finished early, was spent ‘styling’ the kitchen section. We were given plates to sell and a table on which to sell them in an Easter fashion, involving a helluva lot of daffs, some eggs and drippy narcissus.

It was a fun/informative/interesting few days, think I’ve pulled my shoulder and my feet hurt but it was enjoyable to see the work that goes on behind the scenes at a world renowned design store. Would I do it again? Not for a bit, think my feet would fall off.

What I learned from working at the Conran shop…

1. My degree isn’t totally useless nor do I have to just become a product designer. I met a lot of people on both the shop floor and as part of the visual team who come from a plethora of different backgrounds. This has helped me chill the fuck out about my third year and remind me I’m not supposed to reinvent the wheel for my final show, nor become the next Max Lamb overnight.

2. There is an art to shop display, one conclusion me and my fellow window lackey Emma came to. Each singular product, though a triumph of design in its own right, really comes to life in a setting. The shop looked amazing. Betsey and the team are geniuses.

3. I need a larger set of overalls than men’s small, they looked big, loose and professional on Emma, on me they hugged and pinched and looked obscene, it was all tits and paint streaked arse.

4. Planting narcissus in £30 pots is fine if you work in shop visuals, if I did that at home my mum would kill me.

5. I never want to strip papery bits off three crates of daffodils ever again, I have both RSI and prune fingers. Floristry is sadly not for me.

Thanks to Betsey, Zoe, Vicky and the team who put up with/presided over us for four days. It was real.