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(Image courtesy of Crista Matteson).
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Artist of the Week: Crista Matteson

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at gmwynkoop@sbgtv.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
CM: I grew up in a family of self employed makers. Creating has always been part of my everyday life. I began my art career in Costume Design in San Francisco and explored several other art related jobs until 2011. That is when I started combining kiln cast glass, ceramics and cast bronze, into mixed media sculpture. Last summer I studied at Pilchuck Glass School and was an assistant instructor at the Corning Museum of Glass in NY. Since then, I’ve worked exclusively in glass.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Currently, glass is my medium of choice, so I’ll explain the process of kiln casting glass.

The first step is to create a sculpture in wax. I enjoy sculpting wax, the most. I’m always challenged by this stage because I often create multiple elements and connect them after firing. As I’m engineering the connections between each component, I feel like I’m working out a complex puzzle. This is especially true when I’m planning to combine the glass with clay or bronze components. As I’m working, I strive to create rich surfaces on the glass and do so by carving into the wax. The wax sculpture is then covered in several layers of plaster, silica, sand, ground clay and fiberglass to create a refractory mold that goes into the kiln. Before placing in the kiln, the wax is steamed out, leaving the negative space behind. The mold spends approximately a week in the kiln while glass chunks are heated to 1,520 degrees Fahrenheit, melted into the mold and then slowly cooled back to room temperature. At this point the mold is cut open to remove the glass. The mold and wax are used only once, so each piece is unique. Lastly, the glass goes through a process of cutting, grinding and polishing to achieve a finished surface.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
My inspiration comes mainly from my time spent in the NW wild spaces. When I’m not in my studio I spend time hiking, skiing, paddle boarding, and growing things in my garden. When I’m exploring the wild spaces, I take a lot of photos and collage them with my drawings to generate ideas. Recently, I’ve had an interest in memories, nostalgia, and how urban growth is changing our environment. These topics are weaving themselves into my new work.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
How humans interact with the wild spaces around us.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Yes, these pieces are the ones you’d see in my living room. It’s funny; they are usually the pieces most people see as creepy. I usually think of them as sweet.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
This sounds like a cliché, but it’s true, I feel very fortunate and grateful to my parents for encouraging me to follow my passion. And to my dad for teaching me to love the outdoors.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
I have work at the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum through April. May through July, I’ll have work in Habatat Gallery’s International Invitational Glass Exhibit, in Michigan. Locally, Museo Gallery on Whidbey Island will have my work in their April Garden show. You can always see my sculptures at Bender Gallery in North Carolina, on my website, cristamatteson.com, or on Instagram and Facebook.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
My sculpture is always changing and evolving as I push myself to grow as an artist. As I’ve become more comfortable with the process of casting glass, I have been pushing the technical limits of casting. Most recently, I’m creating large, all glass, wall sculpture and smaller more fragile pieces protected under a glass cloche.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
First thing in the morning, very strong with half and half to wake me up, and a chai and rice milk latte in the afternoon.

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