Recently when I was in Asheville, I visited the studio of Matt Tommey– a basket artist and founder of a mentoring program for Christian artist. I subscribe to his podcast– The Thriving Christian Artist and find the episodes to be encouraging of my writing and my faith.
His studio is in the River Arts District on the banks of the French Broad River. When I set out, it felt like I was on one of my yearly solo journeys; that feeling of adventure when I’m about to discover the people and the places on my path. I didn’t look closely at the route, thinking it was near a gallery I’d visited before. His studio wasn’t open on Sunday, but I wanted to see through the windows the elegant baskets I’d seen on the website. Besides, there were other galleries open and I needed some time immersed in art.
Like usual, I lost my way and struggled to find his location in an unfamiliar area among old industrial buildings filled with studios for over 200 artists. When I finally pulled in just after four o’clock, I realized I’d come in through the back entrance. Someone drove by me in a van that was filled with tree branches in the back. I recognized the driver, pulled up close to the van, and got out.
“Are you Matt Tommey,” I asked, knowing immediately that it was him since he looked just like his picture on the website.
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
” I knew you weren’t open today but thought I could see your baskets through the window” I explained, then continued. “I listen to your podcast.”
“Well come on in,” he offered, then opened the door. “I’ve gotta unload my supplies but you’re welcome to look around.” He turned on the lights in the gallery.
I meandered through the displays of sculptural baskets made from natural materials including kudzu, bark, moss, tree branches with embellishments of different mediums. I’d thought there may be a small basket I could afford– but not so. The baskets were fascinating, one-of-a-kind works of art created for a different consumer than me; these pieces that costs thousands of dollars would find their place in multimillion dollar homes. While I couldn’t buy any of Matt’s work, I appreciated his love of nature and the unique way he’d crafted pieces he’d collected into new creations.
He finished emptying his van and I browsed his books; they were the only thing I could afford at fifteen dollars each. Matt came over and I told him I’d like to purchase a copy of Created to Thrive. While he was searching for a pen to sign the book, I told him some of my story.
“You know, I felt like I was doing pretty well as an artist– I’m a writer. Back in April, I’d just successfully launched my memoir then twenty-three days later, my husband of over forty years, told me he didn’t want to be married any more. That really knocked my feet out from under me. I just dropped everything because I couldn’t focus.”
He nodded his head as he listened and wrote his inscription.
“Whew, that’s a long time. I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “Last year, when my mother died unexpectedly, I couldn’t do anything for a while. There are times like that in our lives– seasons as an artist when we aren’t able to create.”
I looked around a second time and then thanked him for allowing me to come in.
Later that night when I was eating my fried chicken dinner at Tupelo Honey– a restaurant near my hotel, I pulled out my new book, my new companion. I’d listened to enough of Matt’s podcasts that his words of encouragement to allow God’s divine design for my life were not new; what was new was that now I saw this message not just in terms of my writing, but finding my new life after losing my marriage.
Since that day in Asheville, two podcasts episodes have really spoken to me:
In December, Episode 112 of 5-Minute Mentoring had a title that grabbed me, “Triumph Over Hard Times.” Matt’s claim that “seasons of difficulty happen when God is about to introduce you into a life of expansion” gave me pause. How would that be true for me? This time in my life has been harder than any previous time– even going through breast cancer. Nothing has caused this much upheaval in my life, in my assumptions of how life would turn out.
Last Tuesday’s episode #119 “Re-Imagining Your Life: A Holistic Approach to Art, Business & Spirituality” helped me to look forward instead of backward. How can I see the whole of my life as flowing out of God’s plan for me?
Now, I go back and read the closing paragraph of the Introduction to Created to Thrive:
“My desire for you is that through this book, you’ll be able to enter into a new reality that you are deeply loved by the Father, that He has good plans for you; to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future, that all you have to do is to begin to align with His reality and experience true abundant life. Let’s jump in.” Matt Tommey
I also take hope in this reference to Jeremiah 29:11. Remembering that God has a plan for my life– including my writing and everything else. I just need to allow that to flow.
My hope for you, is that you’ll realize God’s love for you and will find yourself flowing in that river of God’s design.
Matt Tommey’s sculptural basketry has garnered him the name of the “Dale Chihuly of Basketry.” To see examples of Matt’s amazing creations go to his website at: http://www.matttommey.com
Podcast: The Thriving Christian Artist
Facebook Group: Thriving Christian Artist has over 18K followers around the world