Kevin Matthews’ career path to owning his own pottery store and studio may have been the road less traveled poet Robert Frost was talking about.
Matthews’ first foray in college was for a computer degree. He worked with corporations in the Twin Cities. But he said his time as a firefighter encouraged him to go back to school. He wanted to further his education with the ultimate goal of a four-year degree, allowing him to be part of a lifesaving helicopter crew.
But that’s where the fork in the road may have started.
Matthews went back to school in the mid-90s. But it wasn’t the medical education he was seeking that grabbed his imagination and held it tight. That attraction came from an art elective in pottery he took to round out his two-year college credits.
It didn’t go anywhere at first. Matthews got back into the corporate world but the unfinished goal of a four-year degree was still on his mind. He moved to Bemidji in 2001 to get a degree in environmental studies.
“While I was there I ended up in the studio, again, all the time,” Matthews said. “When I got my degree I ended up with a four-year art degree. I got a minor in environmental studies and a minor in chemical dependency counseling.”
Matthews graduated in 2004 and during that time created pottery as a supplemental income. He built up a clientele. He went to art fairs and had gallery exhibits.
“The more I did it, the more people enjoyed it, the more I felt comfortable with it,” the 46-year-old said.
Matthews finds his drive from the enjoyment people have in the art. He said his eight years as a Chaska firefighter provided fulfillment from serving and helping others but the damage to places and people was also sucking the life out of him.
“There was something inside of me that wanted to experience a kind of a joy and a peace,” he said. “What I found in art is that I’ve been able to reach out to others, organizations and people, that are also searching for similar things like I was.”
A work area in his Glaze 2 Amaze pottery store allows customers to create their own pottery art. Prices range from $8 on up, which includes the glaze and firing process. The groups that come through the door have included children’s birthday activities, friends and family groups and those working through chemical dependency or the loss of a loved one.
“It gives them an avenue to work through some of those things,” Matthews said. “That’s what kind of keeps me in it.”
Matthews said he found he was able to work through loss in his own life. He did an entire exhibit in urns and found healing in that.
“That’s when I really figured out how much that pottery helped my life,” Matthews “There is that peace in sitting there at the wheel. You start to focus on the clay and what you are doing. It kind of downloads everything that is going on.”
Matthews’ favorite work comes in making platters.
“I can explore different images on it and use different glazes ... going beyond what you think a bowl is. Most people think of a bowl as something you eat out of and I’m thinking more of what you are looking at.”
The pieces are kiln-fired and functional as they are food and dishwasher and microwave safe.
Matthews moved to Brainerd after he graduated, first opening a studio on Washington Street before moving to Laurel Street. He always had plans, drawings and ideas for his own store. But he credits the process of building a house with Dick Dean in Pillager, after he first moved to Brainerd, with giving him the inspiration to take a chance to run a business.
“So I took the leap,” Matthews said.
Family reunions, birthday parties, weddings, showers, youth organizations, team-building exercises — have all come in to make pottery pieces. Matthews said the shop has more than 150 “ready to paint” pieces. The studio has been open in downtown Brainerd for about a year.
Glaze 2 Amaze has a tagline in attracting people to paint their own pottery piece as an activity — “Bring your iPod, bring your painting clothes and bring your imagination.”