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.
The next step is working together to discuss what sort of baskets and styles you would like to be a part of your fireplace mantel sculpture. I do all sorts of weaving styles and shapes and I work with many different materials. From copper leaves, to thick mimosa bark, and mountain laurel branches, there are lots of opportunities for you to personalize the piece based on your taste.
I will then work from our conversation and the home visit or measurements you’ve provided, and I will build the mountain laurel architecture for the piece. This serves as the foundation for the rest of the fireplace mantel sculpture. Based on this foundation, I will put together a sketch of the vision for the finished piece, like the one here, which I will share with you to approve.
Then comes the weaving. I will send pictures throughout the process at your request and will let you know when I’m all done so we can find a time to install, or ship the creation to your home!
With each fireplace mantel sculpture I deliver, I am delighted to see the smiles on my clients’ faces as I share the piece we worked together to create!
Hey there, Matt Tommey here in the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina. So glad that you took the time to watch this video. One of the things I love to create for folks are fireplace mantel sculptures. They’re a wonderful way to bring natural fiber and beautiful texture in a sculptural sense into your fireplace. A lot of times people ask, “How do you do that? What is the process? How does that look?” And I thought I would bring you in on the back details of how that sort of thing works. I’ve got a client that I’m doing this piece for, and actually everything starts with the architecture of the piece. Which, for this, nothing is connected yet. These are just raw baskets that we’ve done. This is mountain laurel, and I will take it and sort of get a shape that will serve as the architecture of the piece.
Then based on that, wherever I think a basket will fit, I do a sketch. I come over to my sketchbook and start sketching around with that to figure out where things might go. That sketch overtime is what the client gets which shows them, “hey, what’s he making me? What am I going to get?” It’s a really wonderful way for me to zero in exactly on what I am creating. That way, when you commission a piece, you know exactly what you’re getting as well. Then there’s, obviously, once we get through building the architecture, the creating of all the baskets. Baskets like this are made out of kudzu, but I also do ones that are made out of iris. A lot of them are covered with encaustic wax or a clay, or lots of different things. Sometimes they have branches that come up, other times they could be more like this for a mantel or a tabletop for your home.
The commission process is a fun process because it’s a way we can collaborate and you, as a client, can choose what you like and the styles you prefer. Then I can go to the workshop, behind the scenes, and make it beautiful for you. Take a look at some of the other pieces I’ve done for other folks, and I would love to take the time to speak with you about creating a special piece for your home.
Thanks so much, glad you came!
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.