Finding Balance- a life in clay Featuring Steven Summerville and Wendy Wrenn
Finding Balance- a life in clay
Featuring Steven Summerville and Wendy Wrenn
Steven fell in love with the transforming magic of clay as a small child in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and that passion has sustained him for a lifetime. His studies at Berea College in Kentucky trained him to make strong, simple forms that are completely useful, fun to look at, and make everyday living more interesting and satisfying. He believes that good pottery can serve all these functions simultaneously. His Berea mentors helped him to develop technical proficiency, his own personal style, and a reverence for the well-made useful pot.
During his apprenticeship, he dd research into 17th century English slip ware and as he worked with slip trailing, he discovered his own voice emerging in combining functional shapes with animated handles, knobs, and eventually legs. The surface decoration went from bands of pale color with simple dots to entire surfaces encrusted with bright colors and bits of pattern drawn from nature, antiquities, and other cultures. After 26 years of potting he produces a lyrical line of earthenware that is not only functional but unique and entertaining as well.
Today Steven works in the studio he built at his home in Bumpass, Virginia, tending his garden and goats, making pots 8-12 hours a day, and sharing his home with friends and loved ones . He feels truly blessed to have this lifestyle that has been supported by a large and loyal following of customers who have discovered his work at craft shows up and down the East coast.
"I knew I wanted to make pots since age 10 when I saw a professional potter demonstrate throwing (that’s 1966!). By the time I entered college I knew I wanted to be a potter.
I was trained in an apprenticeship program at Berea College. 1975-1978.
The tradition I was trained in was all traditional English and Japanese Pottery making.
Since beginning my own work 27.5 years ago, my goal was to make pots that was distinctive to myself and also pots that I had not seen before.
My work has been about expressing my joy in in life always within a completely functional context. Subjects that inform my work are my love of dancing, nature, studies in art history and pursuit of the challenge of ‘If I can imagine something, I can make it.’
My current work is revisiting a range of pots that I’ve made throughout my life in clay. Reimagining and re developing the function and joy of making pots that are not only satisfying to myself, that also seems to make people happy with this work."
Creating a home - shaping a piece of clay - constructing a life - with each process there is the opportunity to infuse the intentions of calm, connection, and clarity. The clear purpose of a bowl - the proxy for hands cupped together holding, carrying, containing that which will nourish our bodies and our minds. My mind and hands shape each piece with those intentions and as the pots move out into the world, my touch is extended to the person who takes that piece into their own home to use. From my story to their story, a story continued. The development, creation, and sale of my pots is my play, my extroversion expressed, my desire to please others, my path to understanding many things.
I am affected by the flow and line patterns in nature and I explore these patterns and forms in my pots. My work is moving towards a more organic appearance, often altered away from the perfect circle of the wheel. I seek to infuse my work with a sense of movement; the soft stroke of the hand giving comfort and thanks through use. Through these forms and patterns emerge lines of communication. I am learning that the communication of pottery happens most often in the absence of language. As a social species we communicate, exchange information, through touch, visual expressions, body language - all these voices are present in handmade objects. You hear the voices through your eyes, your touch, your emotional response to shape and size, color and feel. However, those lines of communication are open in both directions - when individuals make the choice to purchase a handmade object so much is given in return/said/offered to the artist to espouse their skill and way of life.
It is a conscious choice for me each day to make pots, to entice others to use and share these forms. The choices of where we place our money and energy is an economic statement, but there is also an emotional component and larger cultural significance when people choose to support an artist’s work. These decisions shape our world of external objects as well as our inner sense of self. Whether you enjoy a cup of tea alone or share a meal with a friend, each experience is enhanced by the presence of handmade objects.
I am currently living in Floyd, Virginia working as a studio potter. My pottery is made of porcelain clay and is fired in an electric or gas kiln to cone 10. All pots are safe for microwave, dishwasher and oven
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