Wednesday, January 30

Unexpected Guests: Matte Stephens.

Each week, I just get more and more excited about the guests we've be able to meet up with. This week is a real honor for me, as I am a huge fan of the fabulous artist, Mr. Matte Stephens. Maybe it's the era I grew up in, but his paintings really resonate with me, and give me a strong feeling of warm nostalgia. It's like George Jetson meets Dick van Dyke, and although they are cartoon-like with a retro feeling, they have much more to them, and I feel, offer such heart. Matte's paintings always have a charming, dignified air about them. I have several of his prints and goccos and they all just give me a cool, light and happy feeling.

Matte's from a small town in north Alabama called Boaz. He says he was like an alien as a kid there (oh, how I relate to this!) and never fit in, so he left and traveled around for several years and eventually found himself back home in Alabama, where living is a bit more affordable for an artist.

Not only is Matte a really talented artist, I get the feeling that Matte is a pretty gentle and kind person, too, very much inspired by his lovely wife, muse and best friend, Vivienne. Not to mention the many animals he and Vivienne care for and share their home with. I can just tell, he's one of the good guys. Matte points out to me that Vivienne worked in a Vintage clothing shop for seven years, so she is super stylish, and he "dresses like Humpty Dumpty". I think Matte must be wrong about that last bit. He seems very cool. I think you'll see what I mean.

Where do you live?
Birmingham, Alabama.

What is your favorite outing in Birmingham?
It was the video store close to my house but it closed. Now we like to go to Ruffner Mountain which is about ten minutes from our house and has hiking and owls.

What's the best thing about your city?

Who are your favorite artists?
Irving Harper; Ben Shahn; Charles and Ray Eames; Paul Klee; George Nelson; Alexander Girard; The people who made Holiday Fair Toys; Jean Arp.

Where do you find inspiration?

Vivienne, our pets, the suburb where we live, the artists above, and movies (old ones, mainly).

Who do you admire and why?
Irving Harper because he helped change the world of design and was open minded enough to become friends with a guy that's 57 years younger than him. My Dad, because he is the strongest person I know and found a way to raise five kids on not much money and we still got everything we needed and wanted. My step-mom for marrying a man with three kids and being a great mom. Vivienne because she is so responsible and good to me.

What's the last great book you read?
Eero Saarinen by Jayne Merkel.

What's your favorite film?
There are so many so I'll try and list my top ten at the moment: Midnight Cowboy, Spartacus (I know, I know, but there is something in that Roman stuff, and I'm still amazed by Kirk Douglas's hair in the film), How to Draw a Bunny, The Best Years of Our Lives, Kind Hearts and Cornets, Mildred Pierce, Thieves Highway, Sweet Smell of Success, The Fountainhead, Malcolm X ( Spike Lee is soo Great!), Dodsworth (one of the best films I have ever seen), The French Connection* (Gene Hackman!), Night of the Iguana (John Huston!). Any movie with Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas, Mary Astor, Bette Davis, Rex Harrison, Woody Allen and thousands more.

*Editor's note: I think Matte might just likes Gene's hat in the film!

If you could photograph anyone in the world, who might that be?
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Who would you like to sit down to tea with?
Richard Burton.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I did, it was candy Gummi Bears to be specific. I had to stop eating them. I still have dreams about them.

What is your most treasured belonging?
Two little gnome toys I found years and years ago that are still bringing me luck.

What do you despise?
People who abuse or neglect animals.

What's your favorite word?

What are some of your favorite websites, blogs?

sfgirlbybay (thanks, matte!). Design Sponge. Velocity Art and Design. Decor8. Etsy. Architonic. Flickr. Ebay. Reform School. Nahcotta. Poppy Talk. Oh Joy! And many, many more.

Is there a craft, language, skill etc. you are dying to learn?

Vivienne would kill me if I started any more projects.

You can find matte's wonderful artwork for sale in his etsy shop, Velocity Art & Design and Reform School. He'll soon be showing original artwork at Rare Device, here in San Francisco. Thanks so much Matte for your candid interview. I'll enjoy looking at your pieces on my walls even more now.


Anonymous said...

his work is so much fun! (and beautiful, too, of course.) i love it when i find out that an amazing artist is living in someplace like alabama, a great place to be sure but not exactly the art capital of the country, and carving out a world for him/herself there while still pursuing a career cross-country. for some reason i find that really inspirational. (perhaps because i reside in missouri. grin.)

Anonymous said...

Cool art. Cool dude. Thanks for the interview!

Carrie Nicole said...

Fantastic post/interview. I get so much enjoyment from your blog!

Modern Craft said...

Wonderful to see their place and to learn more about this artist-- great questions by the way.

lisamarie said...

Thanks so much for this glimpse into his home and mind. I really enjoy his artwork and this was a great interview. Love this new series, and can't wait for that Rare Device opening!

Uncle Beefy said...

So are all these "unexpected guests" this nice and cool or are they just really great interviewers (you're hired!)? I tell ya', V., I'd love to get the chance to sit you and all the "guests" down to dinner! Though I suspect it might end up more "party" less "dinner"...?

Matt sounds like a great guy and, certainly, what's not to love about his work?

This is SUCH a great feature on your blog! :)

sfgirlbybay said...

i am so glad y'all liked matte's interview! it was so fun to do, and i agree, so inspiring.

uncle b - i am so in! what a fun party that would be! we should plan a 'rendevouz' where we could all meet up and have a big old blogger bash!

Nathalie said...

Finding Matte on your post was the highlight of my day, he's my favorite artist ! i got two of his prints in December and they bring me so much energy ! This was great:)

Anonymous said...

I just bought one of Matte's prints. I love it and look forward to getting more.

matte stephens said...

Victoria is so great! Her blog is really wonderful I was so thrilled when she asked me to do this.Thanks also for all the nice comments!!!

sfgirlbybay said...

Thanks Matte, but the pleasure was all mine! I am so happy to share both your work and more about you.

Janis said...

I am now a fan of Matte's art, and a complete devotee based on his answer of what he despises. Great interview!

Jan Halvarson said...

great interview! i love matt's art and their home is a fave too!

dailydesignspot said...

wonderful interview.. and wonderful art.. my last name is harper as well.. design must be in my blood! i have a couple big names to live up to though! haha

Anonymous said...

i love his art work! thank you for interviewing him!

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh i love his work
im saving up to buy some prints. esp of his kitty

Michelle said...

great post, and argh i love his house :)

Anastasia said...

great interview! love his illustrations and his cool space too!

alis said...

sfgirl thanks for this, I adore his work, he's like the Marc Jacobs of prints! Looking at his work feels like opening an old chest and finding a quirky, beautiful object that belonged to my mom when she was a kid. Ok that was weird but that's how they feel to me.

Anonymous said...

great interview, and i'm loving that hand on the book shelf. is that a glove mold? where can i find one?