Every month, Creative Gateways celebrates their resident artists with an honored focus on each person’s new works, source of inspiration, talent, and origin story. This month we are excited to turn the spotlight on the ceramic art of husband and wife team Michael and Sumati Colpitts…
A Couple in Clay
Michael Colpitts and Sumati Colpitts are both artists in their own right. Both were creators before they met. Together, however, they have a special and blessed relationship. They are friends, spouses, and artistic partners. Although they have a variety of talents, one of the focal mediums of their collaboration is ceramics: from delicate dishes, to meaningful masks, to animals that astound all who see them.
The Happiest of Happenstances
It was 1989 when Michael and Sumati first met. They were colleagues in a ceramics studio in India. “Before meeting Michael,” Sumati tells us, “I’d only worked in hand built and pottery clay, never sculpture. I remember the first time he gave me some wet clay and said ‘now make a bear!’ It was the start of my journey to becoming a sculptor,” says Sumati. After one year, their lives moved in different directions and they parted ways.
With unbelievable serendipity, however, they crossed paths again eight years later in Sedona. A force of attraction that strong is hard to ignore, and so it is no surprise that they have been working and living together for almost 20 years now.
One Heart Made Out of Two
Like many artistic teams, Michael and Sumati each bring their individual backgrounds to their ceramic pieces. During Michael’s time in Ibiza, Spain, he developed a personal ceramic technique that allows him to use the clay like fabric, creating extremely realistic folds. This technique is most strikingly seen in figurative pieces like his veiled masks.
Sumati is a trained massage therapist, using the precision of her cutaneous senses in her work. This “wisdom of her hands” allows for an intimate relationship between Sumati and the clay, wherein they can communicate to each other clearly and effectively. This is crucial to breathing such convincing life into pieces like her ceramic animals.
Michael and Sumati each have different strengths, but they also share a core sensibility. They desire to create pieces that are imbued with energy, intention, and joy. They want their work to bring these qualities into the homes of those who acquire them. A house with a Colpitts piece is undoubtedly a happier house.
Teamwork is also an essential and helpful tool in the physical demands of ceramics. This is most apparent when it comes time to fire their ceramic pieces. They do so in a 7-ton brick walk-in kiln that Michael built entirely by hand. The pieces they wish to fire have to be placed both carefully and strategically, to fit the most possible in without harming them. This in itself is a process that can take hours. This type of kiln firing is also incredibly delicate and unpredictable. As Michael explains, “There’s as much of an art to making sure firing goes well as there is to making the pieces themselves – taking the readings and making the adjustments is a process of flow, a dance between what we want to create and how the materials react in the kiln.”
Ultimately, it is the combination of their efforts that they consider most important. Almost every piece that they make goes through a process of mutual input, brainstorming, decision making, and physical labor. It is because of this that they view their body of work as collaborative and wish to share that collaboration with the world.
From Their Hands to Your Eyes
Be sure to visit the Creative Gateways gallery to see many of the breathtaking ceramic pieces of Michael and Sumati that will be on display at the opening reception of “Expressions of Joy: Artist Spotlight,” on Friday, March 16th from 5-8pm!