For Mat Rude—an artist and professor at Gonzaga who works mostly in wood-fired and salt-glazed ceramics—allowing one’s ideas to properly bake is as intrinsic as allowing the clay itself to bake.
“My mentor Don Reitz told a story about one of his mentors,” Rude recalls. “He said—I’m paraphrasing here—‘You absorb the world through your eyes and all that information goes to your belly where you digest it. When it’s needed, that information comes up through your heart and out your hands.’ My hope is that my art has passed through my heart before it reaches the world.”
It’s no surprise, then, that many of his works have social meaning. He and his wife, Aubrey Purdy Rude, collaborated on a piece called Listening is Loving, about homelessness and poverty in Spokane. Rude was also part of the team—along with Gonzaga Theatre and Dance Professors Charlie Pepiton and Courtney Smith and D.C. based artist J.J. McCracken—who built a theatrical set out of human detritus and clay for a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
The performance was meant to be a comment on climate change—how the active damage we are doing to our environment is aided and abetted by our unwillingness to make meaningful change. As the actors stomped around the outdoor stage, oil and coal trains rolling by in the background, the clay came off their bodies and off the set in puffs taken by the wind, suggesting there’s a finite amount of time to change our ways before there’s nothing left to salvage.
The play was staged in June, and will play again in September. Rude is excited to see how the set will weather and age. He has always been fascinated by the tactile and physical nature of the medium. He says, “I was originally drawn to ceramics because of its process and the physicality of making art with clay.” Other people’s ideas gave added creative fuel. “Fellow artists give motivation,” he says. “It’s exciting to see what others are doing in the field and that energy makes me want to be in the studio.”
He is currently working on three separate bodies of work. Rude says, “Current events, sacred spaces, and satire and humor all give inspiration and motivation.” His dreams for the future are to continue working and continue collaborating. “I want to keep making art and help others do the same,” he says. “My wife and I would some day like to open an art center that would not only be a creative space, but also a space for healing through the arts.”
You can see Rude’s art at Art Sprit Fine Arts Gallery in Coeur d’Alene, Trackside Gallery in Spokane and at matrude.com.
Mikaela Martinez | Hand Embroidery
Mikaela Martinez fell in love with embroidery as a child, and returned to it after dealing with children. “I grew up loving Little House on the Prairie, Oregon Trail, and the potato sack towels my grandmother hand embroidered for me and I wanted to be a part of the time period,” she says. “I learned how to embroider when I was younger, but I never stuck with it. Recently I picked the hobby back up as a way to relax after teaching elementary school all day, and I instantly fell back in love with stitching.”
Her friends began asking her to create custom pieces for their homes and wardrobes, and she says, “I decided there was nothing telling me not to try venturing out as an artist.
“I love seeing people excited about the pieces I create and asking questions about an art form they often regarded as out of date,” Martinez says. “Embroidery is definitely picking back up and becoming more popular and I really enjoy seeing other artists’ interpretations of what embroidery can be for this generation.
The style she found was to take what she calls “a timeless technique and merging it with contemporary design.” That includes desert scenes, plant life, animal skulls, florals, and—her personal favorite—mid-century furniture and decor. Her desire, she says, is “to put a modern spin on hand embroidery so it is accessible and understood as more than just your grandma’s pillowcases.”
Recently, Martinez taught a mini workshop to her friends’ kids. “I really loved passing along something I love so much to the next generation of artists and makers and seeing them really enjoy this craft as well.” Her plan is to continue selling her own pieces, but also find a way to host workshops for aspiring stitchers.
You can see Martinez’s work on Instagram @m_embroidery and soon at her etsy shop by searching “Membroiderydesign.” For custom inquiries, email [email protected]