Hawai‘i-Based Artist Makes It on NBC’s Reality Competition Show “Making It”

What does it take to make it on a reality TV show? Matt Ortiz, half of Wooden Wave’s husband-and-wife art team, talks about his craft-fren-ships, life on the funny farm and the most valuable thing he walked away with when his run on the show ended.
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Photos: Courtesy of Matt Ortiz


Whenever an Islander appears on a reality show, we fan hard. Especially if it’s a competition. We can’t wait to see what genius local flair they bring to the table—in this case, a craft table. Kamehameha Schools alum Matt Ortiz was one of 10 contestants competing on NBC’s Making It, a reality show challenging America’s greatest makers to create wow-worthy crafts, vie for the chance to win $100,000 and be crowned Master Maker. You may know Ortiz for the illustrative style he and his wife, Roxanne, have created for shirts, books, murals and installations. Here, Oritz, who made it to the fourth round of the competition, paints an inspiring picture of his time on the show and fills us in on what’s up next for Wooden Wave.


HONOLULU Magazine: How did you hear about Making It?

Matt Ortiz: Wooden Wave received an email asking us to audition for the show. I guess from our Instagram posts, they liked our vibe. [My wife] Roxy and I didn’t know what Making It was, so we binge-watched all the [episodes] and decided to try out. They ended up picking me.


HM: How did Roxy feel about that?

MO: Haha. Yeah, I don’t know why they picked me. She would’ve been much better. She’s organized, can manage time well and is super creative. She’s my rock. And she was super supportive. Being a husband-and-wife art team … when one person starts a project the other one offers support and vice versa.


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HM: Did you miss her input?

MO: Yes! But we weren’t isolated from our families. I got to call her often and she gave me a lot of emotional support, which I needed because the show was so intense and my stress level was high.


HM: What was your favorite piece you created on the show?

MO: The samurai turtle house. I just felt that one encapsulated the art we create. It told a fun narrative with joy and whimsy. Plus, growing up I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


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HM: What piece would you change if you had the opportunity?

MO: The first Master Craft challenge was to make a food that represented you best. I chose a sandwich. I love sandwiches—I even named my childhood puppy “Sandwich.” With 30 seconds left, I decided to draw a turtle and some fish with markers on part of the backdrop. I rushed it, and you could tell. The judges called me out on it and commented that, as an illustrator, I needed to give myself enough time to show what I was capable of. When the cameras are on you and you’re trying to create something incredible, time flies by. This was a lesson in time management.


HM: How’d you pick yourself up?

MO: During this challenge, I didn’t think I was going to finish. Then these hands appear and start helping me out. [Fellow competitors] Rebecca and Justine knew I was struggling so they jumped in and helped me out. At that moment, I felt aloha from them. They didn’t have to help me, but they did. That’s how all of the contestants were—or are. You can see when you watch the show, everyone helped each other out. They’re all solid. They’re definitely my homies.


HM: Do you still keep in touch with them?

MO: We all became extremely close and bonded on a strong level. We have a text feed and it has been blowing up every day with supportive texts and funny memes. That was the beauty of the show: It cemented a bond between all these makers from all over the nation.


HM: So, do you plan to collaborate with any of the makers?

MO: Definitely. All our different skill sets brought such a good diversity to the show. Collaborating and bringing together various skill sets would result in some amazing projects. Floyd makes amazing structures out of plywood—combine that with our skillset of treehouse illustrations and together we could make one incredible treehouse structure. Once the dust from the show settles, I’m sure you’ll see collaborations come together.


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HM: How was working with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman?

MO: They were hilarious. Although sometimes they were a bit of a distraction. There’s a clock in the top corner of the barn, and when Amy and Nick come over to talk story with you, you forget all about the clock. And I love to talk story! So sometimes I would be laughing over their jokes and puns, and before I knew it, 15 minutes had passed!


HM: They sound like they were good fun.

MO: They were. They have a comedic chemistry that makes you feel at ease. But Nick also offers really good advice since he’s an actual wood maker. Amy brings a real-life perspective and asks you questions that someone watching might ask. They also lighten the mood when the judges are critiquing your work. Viewers doesn’t see when the judges are going in on your work, they only see a glimpse. What you see in 10 minutes is a recap of us standing there for over an hour listening to their feedback. Nick and Amy will interject with some positive words and make some jokes to soften the comments.


HM: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from the show?

MO: When you are pushed beyond your comfort zone, true growth happens. This was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I definitely didn’t think I could’ve done the creative work I did in such an accelerated timeline. It was very intense. But, to stand by the products I made, I realize I have more in my tank then I used to think. Learning as you go is a magical sweet spot. I can’t believe I did this. I’ll be sleeping for a month.


HM: Now that you’ve rested, what’s next for Wooden Wave?

MO: We have a couple art shows coming up. One is at Turtle Bay this week, and at the end of January our art will be featured in the Lo‘i Gallery at the American Savings Bank headquarters in Chinatown.


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HM: What about Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i?

MO: We’re super excited to participate in another Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i and be a part of its 10-year anniversary.


HM: Are you eyeing any wall in particular?

MO: One close to our office. Nah, just kidding. We are so grateful to be a part of the event, any wall we get is an amazing opportunity to showcase our work and love for the local culture.



You can watch full episodes of Making It (including the ones with Ortiz) on nbc.com and hulu.com (free with subscription).


Read more stories by Stacey Makiya