Visual Arts Alumnus Found Calling in Clay

Matt Wilson ’09 M’11When Matt Wilson ’09 M’11 isn’t teaching middle-schoolers in Norwich, N.Y., about visual arts or coaching the varsity track and soccer teams, he’s experimenting with new ceramic techniques or creating, displaying and selling his artwork online and at galleries around the region.

An Elmira, N.Y., native, Wilson found his passion in ceramics during high school. He applied to colleges with art programs around New York, but selected SUNY Oswego after receiving a Presidential Scholarship for academic merit.

During his time at Oswego, Wilson honed his craft in the studios of Tyler Hall, earning a dual degree in fine arts and Spanish and a master’s degree in art education. He ran track and field, taught at the Sheldon Institute during summers and was an adjunct professor in the art department before accepting his position at Norwich Middle School. He still keeps in contact with professors and friends from Oswego, including his Greek brothers in Zeta Beta Tau.

Oswego Magazine: What do you like most about teaching art in Norwich?

Matt Wilson: I love teaching, especially in Norwich. It’s a small town with a family vibe, so I get to know all of my students. I’ve been here four years now, so some of my first students are starting to look at colleges. I’ve literally watched them grow up.

OM: Are any of them considering Oswego?

MW: I keep recommending it! I think Oswego was a great choice for me. Classes were small so we received that extra attention from professors. I think if you’re passionate and you push yourself to do better, SUNY Oswego is a great learning environment.

OM: Tell us about your custom ceramics business.

MW: Norwich doesn’t have a huge market for ceramics, so when I moved here I immediately got involved with the Chenango Arts Council. They promote art in the Chenango and Norwich areas and host shows around the state. Ceramic pieces are difficult to ship so I sell most of my pieces at regional expositions.

OM: In an interview with WSKG-TV in Binghamton, you mentioned you like “referencing” functional items such as teapots in your work. Where does this inspiration come from?

40-outdoorsMW: Well, you can only make so many bowls and cups before you get tired of them [laughs]. I’m interested in vessels and the idea that they are functional objects, but altering them requires an added layer of technique and makes me further appreciate their intended purpose. I’ve never really been interested in creating objects that don’t at least look like they serve a purpose.

OM: Do you ever try a new piece or technique and find out it’s just not working?

MW: Oh, all the time. If I’m working on a piece and I think I’m not going to like it, I’ll smash it and start over. If it’s a finished piece, I’ll keep it in my collection I call “the graveyard.” Sometimes I can salvage a piece; by applying a new glaze, for example. A piece doesn’t leave my studio unless I’m comfortable with it going out with my name on it.

OM: Tell me how horsehair plays a role in your artwork.

MW: I love using horsehair to create patterns on pieces fresh out of the furnace. It’s a Native American technique I learned while at Oswego on a trip to Clayscapes in Syracuse, actually. You can use other combustibles to create carbon burned effects, like leaves or grass.

OM: So what’s next for you?

MW: Someday I would like to open a gallery with rotating pieces for sale. For now, I’m going to continue teaching and practicing art. My work has been picked up by other websites, and I’ve been getting a lot of exposure lately. I can’t keep up with all of the requests.

—Tyler Edic ’13

To see more of Wilson’s artwork, visit wilsonceramics.com or visit the magazine website at alumni.oswego.edu/magazine. Watch Wilson work with ceramics on PBS’s Artist Café at youtube.com/MrWilsonTeaches.

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