People at the Maine College of Art have known of Matt Hutton’s skills as a woodworker for years. Now the rest of the country is catching on.

Hutton, 39, has earned recognition from the Society of Arts and Crafts and the American Craft Council. The latter named him a finalist for its Emerging Voices Award, which recognizes the most promising young craft artists in the country.

He didn’t win, but the publicity has brought him recognition in woodworking circles. His tables, benches, chairs and other pieces are showing up in Architectural Digest, Artful Home and other national publications.

In addition to teaching at MECA, Hutton designs and builds custom furniture in the workshop behind his Portland home. Everything he builds is unique, and most of it he designs himself. He learned his skills at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and San Diego State University on the West Coast.

But he didn’t develop as an artist until he studied as an exchange student in Japan. “I thought I knew everything about woodworking. But I got there and realized I didn’t know anything at all about wood,” he said. “Everything I do now has been informed by that trip.”

Specifically, he learned the properties of various kinds of wood, and he began to better understand the nuance of aesthetic and the importance of detail. Designs that are subtle, simple and quiet are his hallmark. He rarely makes anything that is square or symmetrical. “Everything is round or shaped,” he said. “I love carving and shaping.”

He also loves teaching. He’s been at MECA since 2002, when department head Jamie Johnston recruited him to Portland.

Together, they built the woodworking program, writing the curriculum and guiding the school through the accreditation process. They established the major in 2004 and graduated the first woodworking-degree students two years later.

He built his studio in 2009, enabling him to execute more of his own designs. He’s starting to sell a lot more in Maine, which is gratifying. Until recently, nearly all his sales were to clients who lived elsewhere. Business is so good, he’s contemplating hiring an employee. The toughest decision he faces is figuring out what projects he can take on and what he has to decline because of time constraints.

His challenge now is balancing his own work with his teaching. He enjoys working with students, and appreciates the opportunities that have come his way through MECA. His wife, Erin, was recently named director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA, so the couple are firmly committed to the school and to Portland. “I love that place, and I love the people there,” he said.

He and his wife have two children, ages 9 and 5.

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