One of my favorite things to do as an artist is sharing my art with eager students from around the world. I've been privileged to teach at places like the John C. Campbell Folk School, Arrowmont and a host of basketry conferences and conventions around the country but nothing is more fun to me than teaching students in my studio in Asheville's River Arts District.
As a professional artist, it's easy to take for granted the blessing of having a spacious studio in one of the country's largest and most vibrant working artist communities. Over the years, my students have told me that getting to take a class in my studio while surrounded my the huge amount of locally harvested natural materials like vines, bark and branches is both inspiring and exciting!
In 2016, I'm excited to offer 5 basket weaving classes at my studio teaching various things from grapevine harvesting to vine basket making. Each class is a 2-day workshop held from 10am-4pm with a break for lunch and every student will return home with 1-2 completed baskets, depending on the class.
One of the questions I get a lot is "Can I take one of your basketry classes even if I've never woven a basket (or haven't woven in a long time.... or have never woven natural materials)?" The answer is a resounding "yes"! Each of my classes are appropriate for beginners but are also rewarding for experienced makers as well. If you're new to basketry, there's no need to be nervous... you'll have a blast! And, if you're an experienced maker don't worry, I can help you hone your skills and challenge you throughout the class as you're comfortable.
Here's the list of basket weaving classes I'm offering in Asheville in 2016:
For more information on each basket weaving class and to register online, please visit my basket weaving classes page. Classes fill quickly, so please register soon!
This special collection started as an idea in the mind of my clients. They loved all the styles of sculptural baskets that I create, but couldn't decide on one particular style for a new entry table in their Cashiers, North Carolina mountain home. Our solution was to create a collection of various styles that would work together in this beautiful home.
A large part of the aesthetic I create in my basketry work is rooted in nests and how natural forms work together to exist in harmony. Although very contemporary, this collection most definitely pays homage to it's rustic, nested origins. From left to right, I created a random weave basket from kudzu and grapevine, an iris foliage basket, a kudzu pod-style basket surrounded in honeysuckle vines, a bark and copper wire freeform basket in the center, a kudzu and pine-petal basket and then a couple of smaller baskets in the rear all nested in and around contorted filbert branches, commonly known as "Henry Lauder's Walking Stick".
So, the moral of this story is if you can't choose just one style of sculptural baskets for your home, choose them all! Incidentally, this home has a beautiful fireplace mantel sculpture I did for them last year as well as another single sculptural basket.
I'd love to create a collection like this for your home, too!
Well, there's a first time for everything! A dear friend of mine emailed me back in November asking if I might be willing to take on a bit of a unique project for her as a surprise for her husband and a feature in their mountain house. Her husband is a big hunter - pheasant, turkey, deer, elk, etc - and had created a candelabra for their fireplace mantel using a large, beautiful elk antler. My client wanted me to take it up a notch and so she send me the antler candelabra along with some feathers and wasp nests they had collected over the years. Her request: make something beautiful! The result is a very unique, collaborative fireplace mantel sculpture using my normal materials - mountain laurel branches, copper leaves, vines and bark - along with the non-traditional materials of the elk antler and feathers.
SHH! This one is going to be a surprise for Christmas! I can't wait to hear the reaction to the new piece once her husband sees it! #fingerscrossed
Thanks to the fine folks over at TheNiceNiche.com for featuring me this December on their blog. The website is focused on featuring artists, small businesses and their trades in short, visual essays.
Here's the link to my feature, enjoy:
My love affair with copper started many years ago when I started adding a simple, polished copper kudzu leaf to my traditional baskets. It was a unique way to put a signature on a my work and gave me an excuse to work with this incredibly malleable material. Over the years I moved away from my copper kudzu leaves and started weaving with copper as a way to use the material in more interesting ways. But now, leaves seem to have my heart again!
Inherent in my work is this deep desire to communicate the... well, the nature of nature. What I mean is, I really what you to think "wow, did this beautiful piece actually grow out of the earth?" I've often said "Every Basket Begins with a Walk in the Woods" and it's really true, not only from a material acquisition standpoint but also an inspiration standpoint. I love seeing cones, nests, pods, leaves, branches and river rocks as they all interact in nature and supernaturally all that goes into my creative well. When I get back to the studio, my art is the natural result of a supernatural experience.
This latest work I'm doing with copper is very exciting for me because it feels like I'm creating pieces that are so closely intertwined with nature. I've developed a new leaf design - this fern stem - and I've started electroplating some actual organic material (electroplating is a jewelry technique for plating gold, silver, platinum, etc) with copper as well. Think about that... A literal pine cone, seed pod or leaf covered completely in copper. WOW! Right now, the options seem endless and I'm so happy to be moving down this creative path. I hope you enjoy seeing the results!
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.