I've just returned from a really great week at Spring Island located in the beautiful low-country marshlands of South Carolina. This luxury coastal community is as dedicated to the arts as it is preservation of the land and creating exquisite living spaces, both indoors and out.
I arrived amid a torrential rainstorm but quickly found the cottage where I would be staying, thanks to my wonderful host for the week, a resident and member of the organization on the island which coordinates artist visits. She not only got me settled in my accommodations but insisted I have lunch at her home and then run out for a quick tour of the island once the rain cleared. We did and my introduction to the beauty of the island began.
If you've never been to Spring Island - or any of the southern barrier islands for that matter - they are like entering a primordial forest of wonder. As you can see from the pictures here, the vegetation is lush with towering live oak trees, spanish moss dripping from every tree and vines so plentiful, it made this basketmaker wish for another week just to explore the beauty! I also encountered the long-leaf pine and quintessential South Carolina palmetto, both of which don't grow here in the mountains. A welcome change.
During my time on the island, most of my days were filled with teaching a group of 10 students who are all residents - either seasonal or full time - of the island. We created a variety of different baskets, many of which were made from materials we harvested right there on the island. My evenings were filled with lovely times of food, wine and conversation around the table with new friends either in homes or at the Spring Island Club. On Wednesday night, the club hosted a very well attended artist reception for me in their Gathering Room overlooking the marsh and Thursday I was honored to give the "Trust Talk" to a packed house sponsored by the Spring Island Trust, where I shared my work and entertained questions from the audience.
My last day on the island, I was treated to a wine and cheese reception at the home of one of my students, who happened to become one of my clients. I was pleased to be able to install a beautiful wall hanging in their entry; the perfect addition to an already beautiful home.
So, as you can tell my time on Spring Island was very special. The best parts were connecting with all the people who made my experience so wonderful, selling my work to folks who loved it and experiencing the land. The second best? Being invited back!
For more information on Spring Island, check out their website at http://springisland.com/
Creating woven sculpture for beautiful homes here in Western North Carolina is one of the great joys of my life. Especially when the home I’m creating for is incredibly beautiful and my clients are equally as nice. That was the case with this new piece I just finished for a home in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove here in Asheville, North Carolina.
Like many of my clients, these folks first saw my work at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands held every July here in Asheville and I had the opportunity to introduce my woven sculpture to them. We talked briefly about their project and then a few weeks later, I reached out to them in order to setup a home visit.
I love visiting the homes of my clients because it gives me the unique opportunity to see what they love, to feel the space and to get an idea of how pieces I create might fit into the space.
Now, I’ve done a lot of woven sculptures for many homes over the years, but this request was a first: to create a piece for a the wall in a stairwell right off the entry. Since I love a challenge, I immediately excited and ready to get to work.
Upon returning to my studio, I started searching for some branches I thought would work in the space and BOOM, there it was… the perfect piece. I mean, this branch looks like it was literally grown for the space. I immediately began preparing it and then mounted it on the wall to sketch an idea.
Since the clients had already told me the kinds of baskets they wanted in this woven sculpture, I had a good idea of where to start. Then I just let nature take it’s course. While the drawing for this piece is very close to the finished product, you never really know how it’s going to turn out until it’s done. After adding many different baskets in a variety of styles, I accented the piece with smaller mountain laurel branches, copper leaves and white clay pods.
The moment of truth is always during installation and thankfully, the piece fit exactly as I planned. With the lighting and ambience of the space, it exceeded all our expectations and has become a beautiful addition to an already fabulous space.
For more information on how I could create a special woven sculpture for your home, click here.
I always love it when I get to create something special for folks in Georgia. Why, you ask? Cause I'm a Georgia boy, born and bred! People often ask me if I'm from the mountains and I always tell them no, but I got here as quick as I could!
This client was a recent visitor to Asheville while staying at the lovely Omni Grove Park Inn. She saw my work on display there and contacted me to create a wall hanging for their home in Fort Valley, Georgia - you may know as the Peach Capital of Georgia.
Anyway, I think it turned out really nciely and can't wait to get a picture to share here of it's forever home once they have it installed.
Finding an art class in Asheville, North Carolina is not something you have to look too far for, but finding a one that incorporates the elements of art, design, sculpture, natural materials and basketry can only be found in one place... my studio!
Since the early 1990's, I've been teaching people how to use basketry to express their own unique artistic aesthetic and desire to create. Whether you're a total novice or someone who has worked in basketry prevously, you'll find my 2 day classes both challenging and rewarding.
One of the great things about taking a 2-day art class at my studio is meeting students from around the country. My art classes include time to get to know other students while enjoying the creative process. I also provide things like a catered lunch and written instructions to ensure all my studets have a wonderful experience.
During 2017, I am offering 6 different two-day workshops in the following areas:
Each two-day workshop is held from 10am-4pm in my studio, located in Asheville's River Arts District - home to over 200 working artists in 23 old warehouse buildings. Our space is wheelchair accessible and easy to find in the Riverview Station building, right in front of the new 12 Bones Barbeque.
To find out more details and register online for one of my Asheville Art Classes, please visit http://www.matttommey.com/basket-weaving-classes.html
It's not every day that you get to create a 9' wall sculpture for a new multi-million medical and educational facility but that's what happened. In a wonderful partnership with Pardee Hospital, Wingate University and Blue Ridge Community College, along with the Gallery at Flat Rock, I was invited to create a very special wall hanging that is now the centerpiece of the entrance of the new Cancer Center at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
I visited the space with gallery owner, Suzi Ball and was impressed with the overall design features of the space, aesthetics and sheer size. Yes, it's huge and yet the space is very warm and inviting.
In creating a large scale sculpture for a commercial space such as this, I had to keep several things in mind including scale, where it would be viewed from, how it would me mounted and of course, cleaned. Everything came together beautifully and the day after the installation I was invited to participate in the dedication of this special space.
Who knows what the future holds, but I would love to create some more sculpture for these commercial spaces.
Here's a piece that I recently created for a beautiful home in Brevard, North Carolina. One of the unique features of this piece is the shallowness of the depth; only 7". Most mantels are around 10-14" deep, allowing plenty of room to create a fireplace mantel sculpture with plenty of depth. This area provided a real challenge for me as I endeavored to create a piece that was both beautiful, full of interest and would fit the space!
This fireplace mantel sculpture is a collection of 3 traditional hen baskets that were randomly woven with a mixture of bark and vines. In addition, these baskets were accented with a collection of smaller baskets and hand-hammered copper leaves that we make from old gutters and flashing. Even though the space was tight, this piece really shines with lots of interest and texture.
Most of my work is created specifically for luxury mountain homes here in Western North Carolina and places like Aspen, Northern California, Montana and the like. However, from time to time, clients will request I create pieces to be featured in more contemporary spaces like condos and lofts. It's always a fun challenge for me. Here's a couple of woven wall hangings using branches and single vessels I've created for these kinds of spaces, including Atlanta, Georgia, Asheville, North Carolina and Lake Keowee, South Carolina.
Creating organic, woven sculpture that looks more like it was found than created is what I love to do! It's a visual stimulant for the viewer and allows my clients to have the beauty of nature right there in their home.
This piece featured above was commissioned by a client from Sea Island, Georgia / Highlands, North Carolina for their home at the coast. Since I use natural materials harvested from my clients property to create these works (if available), I was happy to incorporate a live oak branch from their Sea Island property as the foundation for this piece. The beauty of the bark and lichen really brought the piece alive!
You'll also notice a real birds nest (featured center left) and spanish moss which was also harvested by the client from their property. All of these little additions make the piece feel like home and nested in place.
As with many of my woven collections, I've also added a variety of baskets accented with copper leaves, clay pods and encaustic wax. This beautiful collection will be right at home on a wonderful antique sideboard in the dining room, enjoyed by family and guests for years to come!
For me, it's never been about basketry. My connection with creating organic sculpture that's based in basketry has always been about the materials. Since being a college student at the University of Georgia, I've been enamored with nature and the opportunity to literally walk in the woods, harvest rough vines, bark, branches and then transform them into something beautiful.
Recently, I had a client comment on a piece I created for their mountain home here in Western North Carolina saying "Matt, how do you do this? It's like these pieces you create are literally growing out of the forest... Almost like you found them rather than created them." What better compliment could I ask for?
I love everything about living in the mountains, but especially the relaxing yet elegant outdoor spaces featured in many of the homes for which I am privileged to create art.
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.