My sculptural baskets combine a myriad of natural materials and natural inspirations. Employing kudzu vine, beeswax, and copper leaves, these sculptures bring a rustic, yet modern accent to any space.
Handcrafted Baskets by Matt Tommey
The other day, Julio from MECA TV came by the studio to learn more about the studio and how I make my handcrafted baskets. We did a tour of the gallery and I gave a brief demonstration on how to weave with kudzu vine. Check out the video above and continue on to learn more about my work.
An Eye for Design
A major part of making art that people want in their homes is to constantly push the limits of your designs and try new things. Over the years, I have evolved constantly. From adding new weaving techniques to my repertoire, to using new materials and changing the shapes and contexts of my sculptural baskets, I have developed traditional weaving techniques into contemporary sculptures.
Using Natural Materials:
Inspired by nature, I use all natural materials including various types of vines, barks, and foliage. I harvest these materials from my garden, areas that are being cleared, or often the land of clients when I am working on commissioned pieces.
Back when I started making baskets in college, I was simply making functional baskets as a personal hobby during my free time. Since then, I have continued to develop my skills in basketry. From trying new weaving techniques and materials, my sculptures have evolved from early, basic shapes to the more contemporary and freeform baskets that you see in my gallery today.
Over the past year, I have begun to work more with artist, Margie Bibb Johnson. Margie is from Spartanburg, South Carolina who is an excellent ceramicist and friend. She sculpts beautiful magnolia blossoms out of porcelain. I have some of her works available in my studio and gallery at Riverview Station in the River Arts District.
Incorporating New Designs to Your Mantelpiece
A family’s artwork is what makes a house, their home. Beyond the structure, furniture, and colors in the décor, the artwork adds the personal touch which creates a true sense of identity and uniqueness. Like family photos, artwork provides an intimate representation of a family.
The fireplace mantel is a prominent space in every home, and is a great opportunity to showcase art. Since I have been weaving, I have done all types of sculptures for homes to bring natural fibers and textures into home décor. The creation of fireplace mantel sculptures adds a unique flair and focal point for any room in your home.
Steps to Making Copper Leaves:
1. Cutting the Copper Sheeting
I get a lot of the copper sheeting I use for the leaf ornaments from the recycling center. I will either hand cut the copper for simpler shapes like the magnolias, but I will draw fern and other complicated shapes on the computer and laser cut them for detail.
The annealing process allows me to shape the metal and make it stronger. In order to anneal it, I will heat it up with a torch to get it red hot. Then, I will quench it in water in order to handle it and shape it into the desired shape.
To get the textures and pattern I want, I use hand-carved molds to get the veins of different types of foliage. I will use a smaller, metal-working hammer to add divots to the leaves giving each ornament a lifelike texture.
The final step is to give the leaves a more natural look. Though bright copper is pretty, I use a patina called liver of sulfur to darken the shiny surface and color the leaves in a more muted tone.
How I Got into Making Mantelpiece Art:
The majority of the fireplace mantel sculptures that I create are personalized and produced on commission. Usually, I will make a visit to your home to get a sense of your design scheme and to sense the best scale of the piece for the room. I also work from photos and measurements frequently without making any visits to homes.
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.