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Matthew and Karine Maynard of Maynard Studios-Design have their hands on everything.
From the first design swirl scratched out in pencil to bending molten steel into iron birds and banisters, the couple crafts each element of their artisan ironwork by hand.
“That’s what makes our work art and that’s what makes us artists,” Karine, Matt’s wife and design partner, said.
Matt said he doesn’t usually speak of himself as being an artist.
So it took him some time, he said, to process being chosen to receive the $7,500 Al Smith fellowship award.
“It’s quite an honor,” Matt said. “I was rather humbled and honored.”
According to the Kentucky Arts Council criteria for the fellowship, named after retired Kentucky journalist and former arts council board chair Al Smith, applicants had to demonstrate artistic excellence, professional achievement and ability for potential artistic development.
Out of 92 applicants, seven Kentucky visual and media artists across the state were chosen as this year’s recipients.
Matt is the first and only Anderson County artist to receive the Al Smith fellowship, according to a representative from the Kentucky Arts Council. Matt and Karine, who have been independent artists for about 10 years, incorporated their ironwork business into Maynard Studios-Design just last year.
“The Arts Council does an amazing job representing artists in Kentucky,” Matt said.
He said he views the fellowship as an investment for his business and work to live up to.
“In our minds, they saw our work as worthy of their investment,” he said.
Matt and Karine had known about the Al Smith fellowship for some time; Karine said she even attended a workshop on how to apply.
Four years ago, they applied for the fellowship, but were not selected as recipients. This year, however, Karine submitted the Al Smith paperwork for her husband with happy results.
“You won that award just as much as I did,” Matt said to Karine.
There are no specific guidelines as to how the funds must be used, Matt and Karine said, but they plan to use the money as a good first step for expanding their workshop in Fox Creek, an area full of other artists and writers that live and work in Anderson County.
The Maynards create every single piece of every project, from ironwork arbors to furniture to stair railings, from raw stock. The process of rendering metal into curved banister pieces requires heating the metal to a malleable state, flexible enough to bend into wanted shapes and designs.
Usually they’re inspired by an art nouveau aesthetic — organic forms that suggest free movement.
“Lots of swoops and droops and a lot of fluidity in the design,” Matt explained.
Of course, Matt said, the client comes first regarding most of their designs. The Maynards have constructed and installed everything from a working ship’s wheel to railings mimicking the look of ribbons and whale’s ribs.
“Our style is our client’s style,” Matt said. “It’s still our handwriting, but it’s their story.”
When the Maynards first get commissioned for a project, they’ll draw a concept sketch.
But typically, Matt and Karine said, the reality of the project could change design plans slightly, due to a building code that dictates if a 4-inch sphere can pass through a gap between railing posts, the railing isn’t up to code.
“We have to design around that 4-inch building code,” Karine said.
A project can take eight weeks or more, they said, from initial design to final installation. They’ve had railings, furniture and other commissioned pieces featured in homes in Nashville, Louisville, the Long Island Hamptons and even Italy.
But the Maynards said their success can be attributed to their ability for repeatability and accountability with each project.
“It will pass code, it will be to design,” Karine said of their work.
Matt and Karine will have the opportunity to meet Al Smith and other fellowship winners at a gallery reception in Frankfort in November.
“It’s facilitating growth that otherwise wouldn’t be possible,” Matt said of the fellowship.