Sculpting a Future
Senior Kiley Matthews was fed up. She hadn’t wanted to attend college in the first place, but found herself looking over a few pamphlets her mother had ordered in secret. The upside was that she found her way to GMC. But her “college search” didn’t really end there.
But by the middle of her sophomore year, after trying her hand with environmental studies, the Rhode Island native felt misplaced and uninspired. Just before she contemplated calling it quits on school altogether, she decided to indulge one of her hobbies as a potential academic study. She didn’t know it then, but that decision would change her life.
“Some of my friends and relatives had encouraged me to pursue art. I hadn’t ever thought of doing it. I just liked making jewelry and things,” Kiley says. “I took a hand building class and, at first, didn’t like it that much. It required a lot of patience, but I stuck it out because I really liked the idea of making something with my hands”.
Eventually, Kiley found her niche in ceramics. It was tough at first, she says, but that was one of the reasons she kept coming back to the wheel. “It’s one of those things that you either get it or you don’t. I knew it was for me right off the bat,” she says. With her newfound inspiration, thoughts of leaving college had dwindled. “With each new project, I was happier and happier,” she says.
One aspect of art that Kiley has grown to appreciate is how much patience is required to fully invest oneself within a project and produce a nice piece. “In the art field you can always tell when someone’s put a lot of time into something. Karen Swyler was very helpful to me in that way—she’d always give me ideas and she would also sit down and watch me throw and give her advice.”
Eventually, Kiley took on Karen’s work-study position and began overseeing the ceramics studio. She tries to keep the place clean and prepares work for many of the ceramics courses. “That’s why I don’t dress nicely around here,” she chuckles. “I’m always covered in clay.”
Kiley’s art was already gaining a lot of praise around campus, but it had also caught the eye of a visiting artist named Molly Hatch. Hatch uses a unique technique called Mishima, which incorporates drawing designs onto the clay. Kiley was intrigued by the method and wanted to know more. This past summer, she interned with Hatch in North Hampton, Massachusetts. Two nights a week, Kiley would stay at Hatch’s house where she continued to hone her skills and worked on producing work for one of Hatch’s upcoming shows in New York City.
Now that she’s back on campus, Kiley’s preparing for a show of her own. She hints that it will focus on fun, emphasizing Art Nouveau and, particularly, the work of Alfons Mucha, a Czech painter with a distinctive style. “I’m obsessed with his work,” Kiley admits. “I want to recreate his drawings within my work and add my twist on them.” Kiley’s show will open on November 18th at 7:30 p.m.
Although Kiley’s still a few months away from receiving her degree, she’s already taken on a professional project of sorts—one that benefited GMC and its prospects. “The admissions department approached me about producing 1,000 mugs to give to prospective students who come here and a 1,000 more pieces that went with the mug for students who ended up coming here,” she says.
Kiley spent every day over the summer pumping out the mugs as fast as she could, yet still maintaining her personal standards of quality. At times, she would churn out a hundred in a single day. By late September, she had finished her part of the project before handing it off to her colleagues so she could focus on her own show.
“In the long run, I would love to own my own business,” she says. “I would love to live on selling my work as a production potter.” Kiley is well on her way. She already has a job lined up with Laura Zindel, a celebrated ceramic artist, after she graduates at the end of the semester.
Looking back, all of this was pretty surreal for Kiley. “It’s crazy. I would have never thought this is where I’d be going. I feel as if I never went here, I would have never known that I could do something like this. It’s truly awesome.”
Chad Skiles ‘12