Poss: We had the pleasure of visiting your beautiful home and studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico this past October. You had plenty of handy projects after having recently moved in. What has been completed & what are you currently working on?
Matthew: Well… there’s a long list and a short list of projects around my home and property. It’s been quite a psychic change moving from NYC and leaving 15 years of city life behind and nesting myself into a lower valley region in the southwest just a bit north of Santa Fe. My home which is believed to be built in the late 1940’s, I learned this from one of my older neighbors who says he helped his uncle construct the newer sections of the house when he was a young boy, including my studio building, which was originally used as a garage to keep and repair his various cars. I’ve also learned through previous owners of my home and neighbors that there’s been an interesting cast of people that have lived here, let’s just say it must have been quite an interesting experience to live here in the late 1970’s. History aside, throughout the years the house has remained in pretty good condition for its age. Of course there’s a few design choices I question, but it’s all part of the experience of getting to know and feel the space for what it is. I’ve given myself this first year to sit with and take in the life of the house. Coming from a background of pre-war apartment dwellings, building supers, and subways; life out in the desert valley of New Mexico is another life. Moving across the country and settling in last May, there were a handful of small repair projects and sorted landscaping chores that needed to be done. First major project was repainting the inside of the house from the previous mix of chartreuse and macaroni yellow hues that dominated the walls to a softer white that simplified the interior and integrated the rooms more subtly. A coyote fence was built to partition off a backyard area, these are typical fences in the region made of cedar and spruce latilla posts that are six feet high, tall enough to discourage a curious coyote from hopping over, hence the name. The weather is pretty extreme here, lots of sun, highwinds, and winter brings a decent amount of snow so I built a carport for storing firewood and trusty Subaru and hopefully a rusty old truck in the future. The studio was a big project which first included repainting the walls and floors, installing updated electricity for the kiln area, and finding the right setup for workflow. In the future, I am planning to expand the outside studio work area and build an attached pergola for coverage against the sun and late summer rains. This will also be set for outside storage and another kiln area… it’s in the planning stages! As for the house, I am currently daydreaming of removing a few areas of the house’s flat roof and pitching it with exposed windows towards the south for passive solar which will hopefully add more heat in the winter. I’m trying to keep the house running on wood fuel and heat generated from the sun which there’s a lot of; sun and tons of wood to chop, there’s not really anything to complain about out here.
Poss: Your work has a timeless quality, yet during our visit, you mentioned 1940’s-50’s Danish ceramics as a source of inspiration. Can you explain what it is about that time that speaks to you and how it translates to your work?
Matthew: This makes me so happy that you consider my work to be timeless. It’s always been a goal of mine that the work resonates as ageless and has a certain visual quality that’s plays to the emotions of the viewer. I suppose I did mention Danish ceramics, I’m quite fond of their simplistic forms and use of matte glazes and the elegant way a group of them can hold a room. They’ve been a great influence as much as other design, fashion, and art have played apart in my creative education. For instance the polka dot dress from the early 1930’s, to comic books of the 60’s, then transpired into Roy Lichtenstein’s iconic Pop Art paintings, it’s all relevant and important to my conceiving of imagery and translating this onto my works. My pieces are all homage to the previous artistic exploits from the past as I am not reinventing anything new but adding to the legacy of the craft. I feel that I’m reinterpreting the things that hit me emotionally and trying my best to relay this back into the eyes and hands of the beholder.
Poss: While exploring your home, we spied a few large scale pieces. The lamp next to your couch completely blew us away. Are you currently working on anything over-the-top in your studio?
Matthew: Thank you, it is a very nice lamp! I decided to hold onto it for a while and see how it may relate to new works in the future. I’m not working on anything particularly big at the moment however I am experimenting with different designs and color pattern combinations. At the moment I am focused on more one of a kind works rather than small batch production works. I am trying my best to get back to my early pottery practices and encourage more unique pieces. Aside from pottery, I recently started a loom weaving class. I live near the town of Chimayo which is a historically rich destination for fine woven goods dating back to many generations of weavers. I have much respect for these artisans and am grateful to have the opportunity to learn this art form from inside such a culturally rich and humble community. So we’ll see where all this leads… I am hopeful there will be good things to come out of the kiln and off the loom!
Poss: Your dog Marcel is a hilarious and particular creature who has a special bond with you. How has rescuing him impacted your life?
Matthew: He really is a special boy. I never really thought I’d be cast as the person who carries around a small dog wherever they go, but I am. He’s my heart. I adopted Marcel while I was still in the city. He originally came from Texas and was fostered in NYC by a wonderful foster parent who let me know that he was a sensitive case and needed particular attention and patience. He was extremely scared and nervous at first, I curse whoever it was that made him this way. The first few weeks of having him consisted of gentle and patient interactions to gain his confidence and trust. He would barely let me pick him up, so getting a collar on him to walk and relieve himself was an exhaustive process. He’s taught me quite a bit about responsibility, routine, and my impact on another living creature. I wouldn't give him full credit, but our daily walks while still in the city gave me the opportunity to reflect and think quite a bit. Our walks at times are possibly more therapeutic for me than for him. As mentioned I bring him everywhere I go, so he’s greeted by everyone I’m with or strangers among us, there’s never lack of attention and Santa Fe is extremely giving to dogs with a bounty of treats everywhere you go. Apparently I’ve become “that dog person”. Can you blame me…? Also for his size he’s a pretty darned good protector.
Poss: Ceramics was not your first love, how did it become your primary medium?
Matthew: Clay found me at a time in my life when I was on a sabbatical from having a studio practice. I had given up my studio space and created a small studio in my home, which was mainly used from time to time for drawing and small sculpture projects. Let’s say I got a little itchy and needed a creative outlet. There happened to be a pottery studio offering classes near my work so I thought, why not? It didn't take long before I was fully engaged in making pottery. It was difficult at first, but I stuck with it and kept practicing the newly learned craft. It felt right to me at the time, it’s a therapeutic and meditative process that ends with an object that could be for use or just ornament.
Poss: Having lived in New York for such a long time while working in the art world, you seem to have a lot of incredible artist friends. Anyone we might not be familiar with that you want to shout out?
Matthew: Ah… so many greats! I'll probably get in trouble for not mentioning somebody but oh well. A few artist friends that come to mind and without a doubt are passionate about what they do, have an extreme dedication to their practices and are super prolific. Please do yourself a favor and check out Kate Casey of Peg Woodworking for gorgeous furniture designs, Nancy Kwon for a range of purposeful crazy good ceramics, Miwa Neishi for playful sculptural ceramics, and for the textile and printed media minds please do not skip out on Padma Rajendran with her beautifully narrative and symbolic imagery.
Thank you to Matthew for allowing us to visit his beautiful home and studio. It was inspiring to be in such a personal space and hear more about his story. We are proud to work with such a thoughtful and creative artist. Please browse his available works here: Matthew Ward Studio.