For me, every basket begins with a walk in the woods. Since the early 1990's, I've been making my one-of-a-kind sculptural art baskets from bark, vines, recycled metal and a variety of other sustainable and locally available natural materials. These hand woven baskets exude the rustic elegance that so many of my clients are looking for when purchasing an art basket or collection of art baskets to work within the decor of their mountain or lake house.
Currently, I have my studio and gallery located in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District - right around the corner from the Biltmore Estate and next door to the Fine Art Gallery & Studio of Jonas Gerard. This space provides a wonderfully creative environment where I can work and interact with my clients, design professionals, wholesale buyers and collectors alike who enjoy seeing my creative process and purchasing directly from me.
Many people still think that baskets are purely functional in nature, but through the work of countless artists, collectors and educators since the mid-1970's to now, basketry has come into it's own as a well-respected and highly collected form of fine craft.
So what makes a basket an art basket? That's really in the eye of the beholder, but for most of our clients who purchase handwoven baskets from Matt Tommey, they are drawn to the beauty and rustic elegance of the finely crafted work. Each basket, although they could be functional vessels, have no need to be 'functional' in a normal sense of the world. The function is the beauty and enjoyment of the natural aesthetic created by each piece. As basketry artist Billie Ruth Sudduth told Matt one time, "these baskets are to hold your attention, not your stuff." How true!
What is Rustic Elegance?
Art basket using pine cone petals
Some have said that rustic elegance is a modern design aesthetic that evokes a little bit country, a little bit Park Avenue. We couldn't agree more. Here in the mountains of western North Carolina, we enjoy the finer things in life - a good glass of wine, great music, warm friends and a house that feels like home. Part of what gives a home that feeling of rustic elegance is the incorporation of the natural environment into the interior design. Using art baskets that have a natural rustic elegance about them accentuates any space by offering a nod to the wild, rugged outdoors inside the beautiful environment of home.
A variety of materials and finishes go into making a plain basket resonate with rustic elegance. Some of the finishes Matt employs include encaustic wax (pictured above), clay, natural pigments and dyes painted or sprayed on a basket and a protective polyurethane spray to seal everything on the basket.
Additionally, Matt uses natural accents like mountain laurel branches, contorted filbert branches, rhododendron branches, pine cone petals, recycled metal and other natural materials to achieve his signature style. Matt truly does speak the language of natural materials and his baskets certainly speak of one-of-a-kind rustic elegance.