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?
Organic Sculptures Exude Rustic Elegance
My creative process around creating these organic sculptures is focused on allowing the materials to take me on a journey of discover. Natural materials will always tell you what they want to do if you'll listen. I've spent 23 years learning to listen and then respond by speaking their language. I endeavor to create organic art that resonates with the natural beauty of nature, to create with nature and the divine Spirit within it rather than forcing something upon it that was never meant to me. Just like the sculptor, Michelangelo my focus is to release and uncover the materials what's been there all along.
Over the years, my work has been selected by clients and designers alike to bring the beauty and rustic elegance of nature into beautiful mountain homes around the country. The beauty of nature never goes out of style and I've given my life to reflecting that beauty through my art. For that, I am very thankful.
Most of my work these days is commissioned. Find out more about commissioning a new work for your home.
See more of my work and learn more about my process in my new book "Every Basket Begins with a Walk in the Woods: Sculptural Works by Matt Tommey"
Organic Sculpture with Clay, Encaustic & Copper
One of the things I love most about creating organic sculptures using basketry is the fact that my work no longer says 'basket' per se, but rather it reminds the viewer of something that may have been found growing in nature, rather than created. To get that effect, I use a variety of surface techniques. Two of my favorite pictured here include the addition of clay and encaustic wax. Both give a really organic feel to the work and really create a weathered look. People often say my baskets look really old and it's these aging techniques that give the work that distinct look.
I also love the addition of copper in my organic sculptures. The warmth and texture of the metal against what is otherwise a very natural looking piece is a nice juxtaposition. Since starting my work with copper in 2009, I now create rhododendron, kudzu and fern leaves for many of my pieces.
Organic Sculpture isn't Perfect
When I first started making baskets, it was all about the technique and forms... doing it right. Nowadays, I use basketry techniques as my creative language. The woven form becomes a canvas of sorts that I can create on and with as I assemble collections of woven objects. I cut, scrape and squeeze these forms until they resonate with nature once again. For me, that's the fun part! I just love it when people say "oh, you mean that's a basket?" Well, at least it started out that way!
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.