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 a particular commission from Sumati Colpitts…
Although the majority of ceramic artist Sumati Colpitts’s work is self-originated, she is certainly no stranger to commissions. The signature life and personality that she breathes into her animals is especially attractive to those with beloved pets. “People ask me all the time to make sculptures of their pets,” Sumati tells us. “The prospect of it is so exciting for them. But, for a lot of different reasons, I tend not to take on too many commissions.” Still, she has accepted many over the years, including a variety of the most popular pet: dogs. Recently, however, she took on a commission for a bulldog that posed a little more of a challenge than usual.
As is often the case, Sumati met the clients for her latest commission at an art show she was participating in. “We had our table set up, and there were a couple of my ceramic bulldogs displayed in the front. This one couple was instantly drawn to them and seemed to immediately start talking to me about their own pet bulldog. She was named ‘Lucy’ and at the time was very ill – they knew she probably didn’t have long left. I could tell how much they loved Lucy by the way they talked about her. It was very sweet.” Sumati and the couple discussed a commission in general terms, and a few weeks later she got an e-mail from them officially deciding to go ahead with it.
“It had been a little while since I had done a commission of a pet, and I was quickly reminded of some of the challenges.” To begin with, the couple did not have a large amount of photographs of Lucy. “I don’t think they were really photography-type people,” Sumati explains. “So I ended up only having about four photographs to work with – which is not a lot when you’re trying to capture fine details of a specific animal.” There was also an obstacle that only became clear as Sumati started trying to capture those fine details. “Lucy was adorable, but she was actually a bit different than the bulldogs I usually use as reference when I do my own. So I had to start to shape things in a way I wasn’t used to. It was difficult, but it was a really good challenge that I think helped me grow as an artist. These commissions are always a bit harder to do, as I can’t just go with what feels ‘natural’ in the moment – I have to keep steering it back to being more representative of a very specific animal.”
Ultimately, Sumati was happy with the result and what all the difficulties brought out. “I think Lucy is one of the cutest bulldogs I’ve ever done – and I’ve done a lot!”
More of the Pack
To see more of Sumati’s work, including her other dogs, be sure to visit Creative Gateways Open Studio and Gallery, open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm!