In this series, the artists working at Creative Gateways give us behind-the-scenes insight into their current works in progress, inspiration, and creative challenges. Today, we look at Sumati’s unique Roadrunner…
Animals to Artwork
Resident artist Sumati Colpitts creates a wide array of ceramic animals, from cats and dogs, to hippos and turtles. She does full body sculptures, as well as heads that work as wall pieces. But, Sumati’s Roadrunners are not like any of their flying, furry, or scaly counterparts. Behind those intense eyes and multi-colored feathers is a great deal of hard work, time, and skill. The finished product is extremely detailed and full of life.
Birds of a Feather
Inspiration to make these roadrunners came from a desire to create something local to the Sedona area. Sumati explains that she “was looking for a unique, native animal.” It was a perfect choice, seeing that the greater roadrunner only inhabits the deserts of the Southwest United States and Mexico. It is also very well represented within American media, such as with “Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner,” and therefore easily recognizable. Sumati’s fascination by these odd birds contributed to her inspiration as well: “Roadrunners are kind of magical, in the way they move and look.” Roadrunners can run up to 20mph, a very high speed for a bird that measures only 2ft from head to tail. They also feed on rattlesnakes and have adapted to the point where they don’t need to drink water, making them a truly unique creature worth memorializing in clay.
Learning to Fly
Sumati begins the process of creation by forming the hollowed-out head and body separately from the tail, and fires them apart so that the slender tail feather wont distort in the kiln. The texture of the feathers and head takes longer than that of the other animals she creates, but Sumati explains, “I think the extra labor is worth it to get a life-like product.” She uses a specific number of glazes to create depths of color and add extra shine, a time consuming and skillful process.
Metal legs are locally sourced and made specifically for each bird after the body has been fired and finished. The legs and base are done later so that the roadrunner will stand evenly and realistically. Their eyes are also specially ordered. Sumati’s reason for choosing such an intricate project, and putting in so much time is that “you never see a realistic roadrunner out there. I think the details are what really make them special.” The extra time makes each piece that much more life-like, and the finished product is truly magnificent.
To see Sumati Colpitts’ Roadrunner, and her other ceramic animals, visit Kuivato, a Creative Gateways Gallery in Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, open daily at 9 am. Tour the gallery, learn about the creative process, and take home local works of art! For more information, please visit www.kuivato.com or call 928-282-1212.