Matthew Ward recognizes that ceramics are having a moment of great popularity, but that is not what brought him to the art form. Around five years ago, the painter decided to try his hand, literally, at something new and began to learn the process of creating ceramics. For Ward, working with clay is satisfying because it allows him to combine the elements of painting that he enjoys — design and problem solving — with the fun of sculpting.
Clay has become Ward’s primary medium as he crafts most of his pieces on the potter’s wheel and hand-builds a few. He uses the eye he honed as a painter as he designs each piece, etching into its surface. The products of this process are a variety of simple —but not simplistic — forms marked with loosely geometric and primitive patterns, in rich but subdued colors. Ward strives to create what he calls “fine art pottery”, pieces that he feels will stand the test of time, ones that he hopes will be valued by their owners and passed from one generation to the next.
Greenpoint residents might recognize some of his creations as they occupy the front window of Home of the Brave, the home goods shop at 146 Franklin St. Ward feels strongly about distributing his pieces through only a few select shops, ones whose owners’ thoughts about art and aesthetic sensibilities are compatible with his own. Home of the Brave is the only shop in Brooklyn that carries his wares, and this is because he feels great respect for its owners, Max and Bethany Vogel, their “mom and pop” approach, and their ties to the neighborhood. Just as Ward works on commission for a number of clients, some of his pieces are made specifically for the store at the request of the Vogels.
It is not only in this way that Ward is connected to the neighborhood, or to North Brooklyn more broadly. He has called Greenpoint home for eight years, and before that was living in one of the last original artists’ lofts in Williamsburg and working out of a shared studio on Morgan Avenue. While he now works out of a private communal studio in Long Island City (in addition to teaching in Manhattan at La Mano Pottery), he finds that the walk out of Greenpoint and over the bridge provides him with inspiration and time to think through his ideas.
Today, he feels grateful for Greenpoint and all it has to offer. Being afforded access to the waterfront, specifically at Transmitter Park, is, for Ward, one of the great benefits of living in Greenpoint. Like many residents who have seen the changes brought by recent years, Ward misses lost gems, like the Greenpoint Coffeehouse on Franklin Avenue. While that was, in his opinion, the best place in the neighborhood for coffee or brunch, he admires what has emerged in its place. In fact, Ward feels that Alameda, “with its Art Deco inspired interior and stylish nod to the neighborhood’s nautical past”, is his preferred spot for an evening out with friends. In keeping with Ward’s appreciation for family run businesses that are integral to the fabric of the neighborhood, he feels at home at Vamos Al Tequila, both due to the quality of their food and their attention to and care for their customers.
Greenpoint contributes to Ward’s artistic life as well. He feels “proud to be amongst a generation of makers and artists who call Brooklyn home” and when considering how living in Brooklyn influences his work, he credits the energy that he feels emanates from the borough. It is true that Brooklyn has become synonymous with the idea of artistry, and Ward recognizes that he is “fortunate to have access to such a creative, rich environment. There are always numerous trends circulating; new forms meeting old forms and certainly a great deal of significant work being produced in such a condensed region.” It is this attitude that allows Ward to draw inspiration from his environment, and he finds that “there is no shortage of visual resources [or] interesting people to gain inspiration from.”
The forms that fill the window at Home of the Brave are some of the products of Ward’s thriving artistic practice. They are striking, graphically oriented pieces that manage to be right at home in Greenpoint — just as he is.