Matthew Ward’s work has a timeless quality about it, he is interested in what makes a piece have lasting appeal, “I want people to really appreciate my work. I don’t want it to be thrown away after being bought after a few years. I really want someone to know that they are getting something of worth, and something that might be passed down as an heirloom.” He pulls inspiration from the 1940’s and 50’s, where he sees that the work was simpler and yet had exciting developments. Galleries and boutiques across the United States from Spartan Shop in Portland to the Museum of the Arts and Design in New York carry his work. 

Matthew comes from an artistic family. His father was a graphic designer and painter and his mother was a photographer. Showing creative potential at an early age, Matthew had his very first gallery show at the age of eight. There he sold his first paintings, abstract watercolors which he still has hanging on his walls today. Mattew pursued his creative endeavors by attending the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum School in Boston where he trained in painting and sculpture. After college, he inevitably landed in New York City where he set up his first painting studio and worked in galleries to get by. One of his jobs was managing a vintage modern furniture gallery where he was exposed to the decorative arts, “That’s how I entered into pottery. I was handling these objects and was curious as to how they were made. Because I had no idea.” says Mattew about his time at the gallery. Initially, Mattew found himself drawn to Finnish and Danish pottery. Axel Salto’s work was a point of inspiration for its sculptural properties. He wondered if they were molds or one-offs. That’s when he decided to take a pottery class at a local studio. He says, “That’s where it took off.”

After taking his first course in pottery six years ago, Mattew became obsessed. Working every day after work for the first year and a half, even if it was only for an hour. He landed a residency at the Birdcliff Colony in Upstate New York. There he worked for twelve hours a day honing in his skills. “At that point, I thought,  ‘I think [pottery] is what I’m the most interested in.'” He traded his painting studio for a communal artist owned pottery studio, Sculpture NYC, and continued the work. He worked until he was able to make a living as a potter in New York City. “It was a mid-afternoon and it was a summer, I was just having lunch and had been working all day and I realized ‘Wow I’m actually doing this for myself. no one’s in charge, except for me.’ I sort of got a little teary-eyed and I realized I would never be able to go back. I cut this linkage of having a job where I answer to.  I’m actually living as an artist. It was a pretty emotional moment.”

Even though Matthew was always a drawer and a painter his ceramic aesthetic had developed over his time honing in his skills as a potter. Through experimentation and simplification, Matthew evolved his pottery to reflect his iconic patterns on simplified forms. “My work is very pattern oriented I don’t think it’s very complicated… It’s very simple and it’s very relatable. People can get it right away, the forms are very straightforward. I think that was just my appreciation for the minimalist movement in sculpture and in painting just having that reference.”

Matthew first drew his iconic “Felix” pattern on a bowl. It started as he wanted to create a three-point design, and upon drawing the circle, he noticed the pattern had a similarity to an eye. At the time he watched old episodes of “Felix the Cat” and named the pattern after the cartoon cat. Though many people see the evil eye or gods eye, his inspirations come from mid-century design.

He has an intuitive creative process, though he does occasionally draw out some designs before executing, he generally throws forms on the wheel and let the forms dictate what pattern the surface will get. He put a lot of drawing and incising on the vessels before they get fired. The glazing process is quite extensive, he mixes all his own glazes, includes underpainting and then masking to get the right colors to come through. He has never created a piece where the surface bears no decoration.

Matthew has also had collaborations with companies like West Elm, where he created a capsule collection called the Chulucanas collection. Here he worked with an old family-owned pottery studio in Peru to create these black and white vessels. “I did not want my own work to infiltrate and be put upon these makers in Peru, I designed the collection that would have more of a feel of their indigenous work and put my own twists on things.” He pulled from different inspiration points like art-deco as well. 

Currently, Matthew works on various projects like his second collaboration with West Elm. As well as teaching classes at La Mano studio in New York City. He recently moved to Queens to be closer to his studio. Things are certainly going well for this potter.