What a collaboration! When fall concentration instructors Thomas Campbell and Matt Repsher combine their powers, we would not expect the results to be anything but spectacular. Their first and only collaboration, the piece features elegant geometry, flawless execution, and harmony of styles.
The pair found time to create the work for the fall concentration scholarship auction, despite their teaching responsibilities and Thomas’s status as a brand-new dad. “Matt is a dear friend whose work I’ve always admired, so it was exciting to work on this auction piece together,” said Thomas.
The ceramic center of the piece, incised and inlaid with colored slips in Matt’s signature style, was created first. “I was happy to hand something off to Thomas and feel completely comfortable and confident that he would finish it beautifully,” said Matt, adding, “He’s got skills.” It then fell to Thomas to respond to Matt’s piece, working outward to create an elegant cobweb of angles out of iron that catch the light just so. This part of the process involved a great deal of math and a dedicated bending break machine, with truly stunning results.
The pair first met when Thomas, then a Penland Core Fellow, was a student in Matt’s first Penland concentration as an instructor. They became good friends when they both lived at Penland from 2017 to 2020. As a Penland Resident Artist, Matt even used his class benefit to take Thomas’s two-week workshop in the iron studio.
The two had had their sights on teaching a Penland concentration together. Scheduled to teach in 2020 before the session was canceled due to the pandemic, Matt and Thomas were happy to return this fall. They share a mutual respect and a similar approach to making. Both are meticulous planners whose work invokes “truth to materials.”
“Matt and I both rely heavily on technique, precision, and line in our work,” said Thomas. Matt explained, “It’s using repetition to create structures and form. He does it through his processes of cutting and bending and I do it through whatever it is I do with clay.”
Supporting Penland Scholarships
This piece was generously donated to the fall scholarship auction. It was purchased by phone by an enthusiastic collector in a dramatic bidding war, to the delight of all. “I enjoy making things people want,” said Matt, “and the scholarship program supports a lot of people coming to Penland.”
Thank you to Thomas and Matt for your time, knowledge, and generosity!