Written by Jacob Cavett
Photographed by Blair Bellaire
In the sculpture courtyard behind Rainey Fine Arts Center, Matthew Everett removes the lid from a trash can-turned-Raku kiln, releasing a puff of smoke. With gloved hands, he removes newly baked ceramic pots from blackened bits of cardboard and paper, placing the clay bowls in a bucket of water that sizzles with each gentle placement. After a moment, he removes the pieces and sits them on the ground, noting that the differing shades of neutral colors were decided by the kiln itself. “It’s freeing to know that I can’t control the whole process,” he says.
As a senior Ceramics major, Matthew spends much of his time in the studio. He describes his process as private and meditative, an engagement with art fueled by his subconscious. He cites not only acclaimed ceramic artists such as Toshiko Takaezu, Tammy Garcia, and Cristina Córdova as his main inspirations, but also nature. He spent the summer of 2017 in Alaska, where he found refuge in beautiful landscapes during a personal season of change, both in his family life and art.
Matthew is especially inspired by greenery and mountainsides because of their rich textures, which he often applies to his works, sometimes literally. He explains that he harvests bark and branches to include them in his pieces. “I choose dead plants to give them another life.” Raised on a chicken farm in Lugoff, South Carolina (where he was in charge of raising the ducks), Matthew has always felt connected to nature in some sense, as is shown in his palette of earthy colors, especially browns and tans.
In addition to ceramics, Matthew developed a passion for basket weaving at his local fine arts center in Kershaw County, South Carolina, where he struck up a close and enduring friendship with his teacher. Even though AU does not offer courses in basket weaving, Matthew’s ceramics courses helped him to understand the value of their similarities, especially their shared connection to art and craft. A stigma, he says, has attached to crafts like basket weaving and ceramics because of their originally utilitarian function; Paleolithic hunter-gatherers needed pots in which to crush their pigment for wall paintings, and baskets for collecting food. “Craft and art can exist in the same plane,” Matthew says. “They feed off one another.” He has also grown interested in photography, especially cyanotype photography, since it is essential in documenting both his ceramics and baskets.
After graduation, Matthew will move to Greenville, South Carolina, where he hopes to score an internship or apprenticeship in ceramics. He is thrilled by the Upstate’s growing ceramics and basket weaving scenes, and he hopes to one day make a career out of pursuing his passions. For now, he will take things one step at a time, confident that with both his life and craft, “It’s not about having a predetermined idea of what a piece will look like, but experiencing it.”