Matthew Gaddie graduated from Hood College in 2014 with a master’s degree in ceramic arts, and he is currently working toward his master of fine arts degree in ceramic arts at Hood, all while working as a professional potter in Kentucky.
He has been an adjunct instructor at St. Catharine College in Saint Catharine, Ky., since 2010 and a full-time studio ceramic artist since 2007.
In 2010 he finished designing and building his 37-ton wood kiln and a 1,400-square-foot studio and gallery. These facilities allowed him to begin retail sales, teaching classes and conducting national workshops. In 2014 he was recognized as one of the 100 most notable wood-fired potters worldwide in a book by New York author and potter Amedeo Salamoni.
The Meadows Pottery, his studio, is located on a 315-acre farm in Bardstown, Ky. The land was purchased in 1864 by Gaddie’s stepfather’s great-great grandfather. Gaddie moved to the farm at 12 years old, and he took note of the simplicity of the land and thought about his surroundings.
Gaddie’s current work is an attempt to reflect the ebb and flow of the simple life he grew to admire as a child. The work is primarily wood-fired, functional pottery, straightforward in form and intent. Inside the frame and philosophy of practicality is the struggle to communicate the underlying connection he sees between the rural, hard-working days of his youth and the life he wants to live as a potter.
For his graduate work at Hood, he has been commuting from Kentucky several times per year to Frederick, about a 10-hour drive. He is currently working on his thesis and is expecting to complete his master of fine arts degree in May.
“It has not been easy, that is for sure, but Hood has given me everything I needed and then some,” he said. “Without question I believe the program at Hood is the future of higher arts education.”
Gaddie is grateful for the opportunities Hood has given him and the support of Joyce Michaud, professor of art and director of the MFA program, who is his MFA and thesis adviser.
Gaddie’s artistic process requires solitude and distance from people.
“I require hours of alone time in my studio without input,” he said. “When I am ready, I bring my work to Joyce, and we discuss it at length, but it has always been so valuable for me to do that on my own timeframe. Hood has been a perfect fit for me, in part, because of the distance.”
Gaddie has learned about much more than just ceramics and studio art at Hood College.
“My experience at Hood has been invaluable,” he said. “The amount of writing and preparation of professional documents far surpasses other programs I know of. I cannot count the amount of times I have applied for a commission, a grant, a job, etc., and I went into Hood files and cut and pasted what I already had on hand.”
He has received dozens of commissions, awards and grants, the most recent of which was Kentucky’s most prestigious, a commission by the Kentucky Arts Council to design and create the 2016 Governor’s Awards in the Arts.
The commission was awarded based on a series of large ceramic platters he created in 2014. The 10 new pieces will each have an individual color pallet, but will reflect the unique aesthetic for which Gaddie has become nationally recognized. The wood-fired platters will reflect quiet moments of time on the rural landscapes of Kentucky. The Governor’s Awards are the commonwealth’s most prestigious arts awards, honoring Kentucky individuals, businesses and organizations that make significant contributions to the arts in the state.
During the same time period, he will be completing a large ceramic installation at Four Roses Distillery in Cox’s Creek, Ky., which has been named American Whisky Distiller of the Year four of the past five years. He will be making a series of seven sculptures to go into their visitor center, and the pieces will be used to educate the public about the processes involved in producing bourbon.
In all his work, Gaddie tries to create unique pieces that tell the human tale of creation, struggles, successes, failures, imperfections and hopes.
“I hope that the quality of my work is subtle and simple and takes time to appreciate.”