Local artist finds joy in world of ceramics

Pat Matheson gearing up to showcase works in family show

Local artist Pat Matheson didn’t originally set out to specialize in the creatively-rich medium of ceramics. Printmaking is what first held appeal.

But Matheson, who hails from Red Deer and now lives on a picturesque farm near Sylvan Lake, can’t imagine not working with clay and firing it in the ‘raku’ technique. The results? Gorgeous, iridescent pieces of art that are strikingly unique.

Folks will soon have the chance to check out Matheson’s masterpieces during The Farm Studio’s ninth annual Christmas Art Show + Sale which runs Nov. 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Matheson’s sister, mother and cousin are also contributing a range of artistic works to the event, which takes place on his farm located one mile west and one mile north of the Aspelund Road and Hwy. 20 intersection. There will be signs to help guide people to the location.

He’s also taking part in the fourth annual Pioneer Lodge Art Market which is set for Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Red Deer’s Pioneer Lodge (4324 – 46A Ave.).

Matheson, who works as the City of Red Deer’s public art coordinator, couldn’t live on a more peaceful, scenic stretch of land – all the better for providing reams of inspiration. It was originally his grandparents’ farm, which they settled in the early part of the last century.

An interest in art surfaced at an early age, and Matheson went on to formally study visual arts initially at Red Deer College. But clay, as was already mentioned, wasn’t at the forefront of his thoughts.

“My background was two-dimensional work – drawing and printmaking.”

He set his sights on continuing his education in Calgary with a focus on printmaking, but couldn’t get into that program. There was room in ceramics, however. It proved a pivotal season in his own artistic journey.

“I sort of fell into it,” he explains with a laugh. After he wrapped up studies in Calgary, he returned to Red Deer and began working at RDC. He later decided to pursue further education, so he headed off to Regina for a Master’s degree and followed that up with another teaching stint at the university there.

After several years, he returned to Central Alberta and settled on the family’s farm in 2000. One of his first projects was to build a studio.

“I just love it out here. It’s rustic for sure – lots of work,” he smiles. But there couldn’t be a better place to pursue his craft. His kiln is just a few steps from the house and studio.

Matheson utilizes raku-firing with his ceramics. The method originated centuries ago in Japan, and features hand-molded pieces that are removed from the kiln while still glowing hot. “The glazes are still flowing like lava.”

Matheson then places them in large metal containers filled with bunched-up newspaper, which of course promptly burst into flame. The containers are then covered and the pieces of clay are smothered in smoke. It’s all part of the magical process.

“The smoke and the heat give the pieces all these colours – you never get two pieces the same.” After a few minutes, they are placed in water and brilliant, shimmering colours and designs are the result. Beautiful, lustrous, and intricate, they also consistently look different under differing light sources.

For Matheson, working in ceramics is the perfect medium for expressing himself. He loves the versatility and ‘forgiving’ nature of it.

“For me, the finished piece is 50 per cent of it. The rest of it is the journey I take with the material because it will sort of tell me what it wants to do. You have to have ‘give and take’ when it comes to clay.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to end up with. That’s the creative part of it that is so much fun.”

For more information about the Christmas Art Show + Sale, call 403-748-2557. Check out www.patmatheson.com.