It’s the dream of every artist to have their work showcased and appreciated by their contemporaries. For Bumpass potter Steven Summerville, his moment in the spotlight has arrived.
Summerville’s latest work of colorful, intricately fashioned pottery will be featured at the Stewart Gallery, an art center in Richmond, for their show LOCAL COLOR, which will run from Sept. 11 to Oct 5.
Using techniques that have been around for centuries, Summerville said he fuses his own unique style into every one of his creations.
“I’ve started saying lately that I put the funk in functional,” Summerville said as he hunched over his spinning wheel. “I enjoy making pots that people can use on a daily basis.”
Summerville, who moved to the Bumpass area in 1990, has made a career of a lifelong passion. He said he still vividly remembers when his interests in the craft were piqued during a pottery demonstration given at his school as a 10-year-old growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“I never got past – and I still haven’t gotten past – the magical quality of the process,” Summerville said. “It was literally magic, the fact that you could make something with your hands and could use. I didn’t know at the time that I wanted to do it for a living, but I’ve known since I was 10 that I wanted to make pottery.”
Honing his craft at the prestigious Berea College in Kentucky, Summerville further developed his passion for pottery during a overseas trip to England to study under respected masters of the trade. Though he took a break from pottery from 1983 to 1993, his return to the craft marked a transition from it being his hobby to his life.
Summerville said he takes the most pride in the fact that he creates products that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but useful as well.
“I do functional work instead of art objects,” Summerville said. “The idea is to have artwork that you can hang on the wall, take it down, wash it off and use it to put sandwiches or chips in.”
Working at the studio he built beside his home in 2008, Summerville said he often spends 12 hours of the day crafting pots, cups and dishes. He draws from an eclectic source of inspiration when he molds his creations, sources that are always close by.
Whether it’s blaring punk music over his nearby radio or gazing out at his assortment of llamas, peacocks and goats that he keeps in his backyard, Summerville said he is continuing his metaphorical artistic “voice,” that is, his own unique style.
“Pottery is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” Summerville said. “I want to make something that was distinctive to myself, formed by my tradition and my education. What I bring to my work is my love for a lot of things, like music, nature and laughter.”
To read the entire story, see the Sept. 12 edition of The Central Virginian.