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What clay body do you use?

"Recycling clay is very important to my practice. I use reclaimed clay donated and gathered from local area potters and ceramic studios. The raw clay for Resilient, my current exhibit at Mother Dog Studios was used at Lawndale Art Center and the Sculpture Month Houston, Glassell School of Art exhibit.

I also use the same clay for my fired work. As you can imagine the reclaimed clay is a mixture of colors and temps. When I run a wire tool through the clay beautiful striations are revealed. Even after 3 uses the colors remain evident."

    Primary forming method?

    "For my large scale sculptures, think of coil pots."

    Primary firing temperature?

    "The past year and a half I have produced work in raw clay. Since this is so labor intensive, I find very little time to produce fired work. The temperature of the fired works really depends on the desired results. Currently I am experimenting with reducing the melting temperature and controlling the color of porcelain by introducing various types of frit at cone 04. On the flip side experimenting with layering vitreous slips, Akiko’s white glaze and porcelain at cone 10 reduction. "

    Favorite surface treatment?

    "That is a hard one to answer. I use surface treatment I need to for the desired results."

    Ephemeral Columns is a site specific installation that reflects the strong angular lines and light found in the interior of the new Glassell School of Art.

    Shown in Out of Clay, a Sculpture Month Houston Exhibition at Orton Gallery, Glassell School of Art.

    Favorite Tools?

    "Wire tool, hands and wooden skewers."

    Describe your studio environment.

    "I have a large studio space off Bellaire Blvd. that backs up to a 28-acre easement with horses that come up to my back door. It is country in the big city.

    It is my space. When in the midst of an installation the room is packed, it is my mess, I can focus on my work, and do not have to maintain the studio for others. When the project over, clean up and start the next mess."

    Studio Shot

    Experimenting with color at La Meridiana residency in Italy.

    How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

    "Since the focus of my work has been installation, I have not concentrated on sales but plan to in the future. I plan to utilize the front room of my studio as a gallery space."

    Building experimental kiln at Hilmsen residency in Germany

    Local Column was created with regional clay acknowledging the craftsmanship of the locally manufactured bricks which were used to build Monk’s Church and the wood cravings found in the church's interior.  12' x 2', Clay Connection, MÖNCHSKIRCHE MUSEUM, Salzwedel, Germany

    What sparks your creativity? What drives you to work with clay?

    " I love a good challenge. I find it difficult to produce repetitive work, therefore I am always seeking methods to push the materials. Give me a space and I will fill it.

    I turn to geological formations for inspiration. Think lava fields, Big Ben, Zion National Park, etc. The forms can be massive, sculpted by natural elements."

    Did you come to ceramics from a different career? Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career.

      "I have only been involved in ceramics for the past 23 years. Prior to that I was involved in the legal field, then a stay at home mom when I first touched clay. I have managed classes at the Glassell School of Art and a bookkeeping business for years. My ceramic knowledge is a culmination of interactions with Jeff Forster, Bill Dennard and others.

      I received a Certification in Ceramics from the Glassell the same year I entered the BLOCK program at the school. The Block program resulted in a transformation in my thinking about my ceramics. No longer thinking about my work as correctly crafted ceramic work but as a piece of art was life changing. I am a sculptor who uses clay but I am not bound by the limitations of the material.
      Attending non-clay related events such as gallery talks, assisting at Sculpture Month Houston, basically stepping out of my comfort zone to understand art beyond ceramics. Taking risks, applying for residencies, becoming involved in ClayHouston. Serving as president of ClayHouston when I hate talking in public. You have to put yourself out there, except failure and be grateful for the successes.

      Matthews' presents Resilient an immersive sculpture engulfing Mother Dog's “The Pit” gallery with a wave of raw clay flowing through the gallery, pulsing with stilled energy, redefining the interior landscape from its formal geometric presences into an organic resilience.

      SculptedLawndale Art Center.  Site-specific installation, raw ceramic material, size varies, shown, work in progress.

      How have you have taken your experience as a well-established maker in the field and passed that knowledge along to other artists?
        "I don’t think of myself as a well-established maker… there is so much to learn. But as an artist, a person, I like to make things work well. Many people know of me as the Communication Chair of ClayHouston, which I did for over 10 years. After ClayHouston hosted NCECA, I felt the clay community needed to keep the moment going forward so stepped up as President of ClayHouston. We added a symposium, a regional show, and partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston - all in effort to expand our exposure to the Houston and national clay communities as well as the general public.

        Although I am only involved in ClayHouston as a past president, I still give input on request."

        Last wood fire at Jeff Forster's place

        What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow maker, mentor, or teacher?

          "So many people have been kind and supportive of me, it's very hard to single out one bit of advice. So my advice is to just go for it. Grasp life experiences, hold on and just have fun."

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            Michelle Matthews (born 1959, Passaic, NJ) graduated with a BA from Wheaton College in 1981, and has studied at the MFAH Glassell School of Art BLOCK program and residencies in Germany and Italy. Her recent exhibitions include Sculpted at Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX (2018); Clay Connection at Mönchskirche Gallery in Salzwedel, Germany (2018); and Out of Clay at Glassell School of Art, Houston, TX for Sculpture Month Houston (2018). She has co-curated and published a catalogue for
            Collective Transference: Houston Area Clay at Stephen F. Austin State University, Cole Gallery, Nacogdoches, TX  and Houston Community College Central Campus, Houston, TX (2017 and 2018) and is co-curating Without Borders at Mönchskirche Gallery in Salzwedel, Germany (2019).


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