Matthew Brophy, a potter, never wonders what he’s going to do next. “My ideas usually come when I’m lying in bed at four in the morning,” he said. “I can’t go back to sleep until I’ve completely figured them out in my head. I just need to prioritize the better ideas to get to them faster.”
His first exposure to pottery came in tenth grade. “By the end of the year, I was throwing at a college level,” he said. But his parents’ divorce and a subsequent move to a smaller school with no pottery program caused him to put that interest aside until 10 years ago when he met a local artist who “got me back into art,” he said.
Until that point, his creative urges had found an outlet in the culinary arts. He studied at Johnson & Wales University, a culinary school in Providence, Rhode Island, to become a classically trained chef specializing in European cuisine, primarily French and Russian. He also became skilled at ice sculptures. “I was an artist before I knew I was an artist,” he said.
He met his wife at Johnson & Wales, where she was studying hotel management, and they moved to Anderson when she took a job at the Marriott in Greenville. She is now a vice president for Auro Hotels. Because she travels a lot, Brophy “did the Mr. Mom thing” with their two daughters for a while, allowing him the chance to resurrect his art career while they were in school. Recently, he accepted a position at Tri-County Technical College to revamp its culinary arts program.
Brophy’s pottery takes many forms. “I’m trying all forms of firing from stoneware to raku to horsehair and feathers to saager,” he said. “I’m still amazed by everything.” While he does raku at home in his front yard, he works mainly out of the Belton Center for the Arts.
He creates unusual effects in the raku through his process, which involves firing at 1850 degrees, then removing the pottery from the kiln while it’s still glowing and red hot. Then he puts it in a metal garbage can with newspaper and sawdust so it catches fire and burns around the piece. He covers the garbage can and lets it burn.
For saager, he paints each piece with ferric chloride and then wraps it in tin foil with organic items such as horsehair, sugar, feathers, or leaves. He brings it up to 1200 degrees in an outside gas kiln, then wears special protective equipment to remove it. When it cools down, he unwraps the piece to reveal a one-of-a-kind ceramic form underneath. “You never know what the design is going to be,” he said.
For hand-thrown porcelain pieces, he brings the kiln up to 1450 degrees, pulls the pieces out while hot, and burns items such as feathers onto them to leave an imprint.
In the future, he’s looking forward to trying wood firing and pit firing.
There is a buyer for everything he makes. Currently, he sells out of the Belton Center for the Arts, Gallery 313 in Anderson, and the Mountain Mist Gallery in Cashiers, N.C. The gallery representation came about after people saw his work in local art shows and craft shops and asked to represent him. “I would like another half dozen galleries,” he said. “Then I could throw pottery all day.”
Brophy will be one of the guest artists at Bay 3 at the Anderson Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 2, from 5-8 p.m.
For more information about Brophy, visit https://www.facebook.com/matthew.brophy.39.