Photo courtesy of Stepanka Summer
Some people believe an artist is born an artist. Such is the case with Stepanka Summer, an artist who came into the world in what she called “a very small town of pristine Bohemian countryside” in the Czech Republic and she credits those humble beginnings as influencing her, as well.
She described her early life saying, “Growing up in a small village in the countryside, creativity came from pure necessity. Everything was homemade, homegrown, home-raised, and my most cherished memories are picking mushrooms and berries in the forest, eating fruits and vegetables straight from the many gardens my mom and grandparents had, learning about herbs and plants, and being in a direct contact with nature. All of this formed a beautiful, strong foundation for an artist to build upon.”
Yet when she turned 19, she made a move to the United States. “It was a dream that drew me here,” she conceded. “America, in my heart, was home calling me home, a feeling I could neither ignore nor explain. Following my heart’s longing for a place I knew not a thing about, I flew far away from what I knew. Coming here was my first trip anywhere, first time on a plane, first time seeing the ocean.”
She admitted that she had a reawakening when she moved to the big city. “In the first year of living in New York, I lost myself in all the newness, starting from nothing, learning how to ‘talk and walk’ all over again, only to find myself again in the process and find my true home,” Stepanka admitted. “Here, I can truly be who I am. My dream came true in every way I could imagine and beyond — my life became more than I could have ever dreamed it could become.”
The self-trained artist doesn’t believe that one needs to study art to pursue a creative career. She recounted, “When I started making ceramics first time at the 92nd Street Y 23 years ago, one conversation with a much, much older friend who devoted a life time to art, influenced me so greatly and gave me the confidence to pursue artistic career without a formal artist education. I always felt that everything is possible, if you believe that it is.”
She also believes that her art unfolds on its own natural course. “For me, the interest was always there,” she noted, “but every aspect of my life as an artist has its time and comes when it is ready. Like a tree, it takes time to grow and bear fruits.”
Such was the case with Stepanka’s interest in ceramics. Although she always had a love of the art form and collected the work of local artisans at an early age, she never had the opportunity to explore the medium until she came to the U.S.
She recounted how her artistic journey unfolded, “Making ceramics was a hobby for a few years, until my dream of becoming a full time ceramic artist came true. I had a day job for many years at a fancy hotel, I was hostess in the restaurant which gave me the flexibility to make ceramics as well.”
And when it came time for her to leave the security of her day job, fate intervened, “I decided to get a nose ring, when I came to work the next day the management asked me to remove it and I said no, at that moment I knew it was time to spread my wings and fly away, making ceramics my full time job, It was the best feeling in the world.”
These days, Stepanka makes functional pieces like cups and plates, primarily in Porcelain. She also makes sculptural wall installations, which she described as “abstract paintings of multiple hand-built porcelain pillow-like forms to create a large scale canvas for my abstract minimalist intuitive expressions.”
She also shares her knowledge with students at the Columbia University — Teachers College. “Like all in my life, I let everything find me, I am not someone who runs after things, (I admire people that do) but that is simply not me. I keep an open mind and heart, and just know that I will be guided to the right place at the right time, and that is exactly what happened with Columbia University.”
She also recently realized one of her other drams — to write a book. She talked about finding treasured gold, saying, “My hands and the art they create has always been my language, but somehow it became clear I can’t say all I want to say in porcelain. I never wrote a poem before, writing always seamed like the most intimidating mountain to climb. But here I was January 2, 2018, walking into a living room with a television on, an interview on PBS with a young poet Rupi Kaur.
I did not know who she was but at that moment listening to her, everything came together like a lightning strike. I saw a new door opening and the brightest light pouring in and over my whole body, an absolute knowing took over my entire being. And at that moment I had a complete vision of a book, telling my story in poems and not one doubt in the world. I can only describe this moment as a moment of divine intervention. I felt so compelled to share my story, my journey, my transformation as a person and artist.”
She explained the meaning behind the title, finding treasured gold, saying, “All of my life, every obstacle, every challenge, every dark place I have ever been to in my mind, from overcoming stuttering, dealing with two breast cancer diagnoses, allowing fear to be in charge of my body and mind for most of my life, letting old ingrained beliefs determine who I was and mostly who I was not and can’t be, and the list goes on and on... I always knew there must be more to it, there must be a reason.”
“I learned how to become an observer, how to step outside of my self, and navigate the complexity of the mind and its connection to the body, the power I have to heal myself,” she continued. “I learned to be open and let intuition guide me, knowing all the answers will find me when I am ready to hear and understand. Every struggle at the end always led me to a golden treasure hiding in unseen, unimaginable depths of me and the only way to find it is to dig and not stop digging, believing it’s there. Every deep dark place in your mind is worthy of your exploration pan for treasure look for gold.”
In the book, Stepanka draws on her own personal life experiences and explores all of the basic human conditions and “life’s clichés.’ She noted, “I write about beauty, creativity, love, fear, intuition, cancer, about the complexity of the mind and its connection to the body, I write about the invisible, intangible, complex and the very simple.”
As for her readers, she hopes they use finding treasured gold as a road map or recipe on “how to find a golden treasure hiding within each and every one of us.” She added, “I hope to bring light and little bit of magic to my readers, so they too can apply it into their own life’s. I would like to help my readers navigate the human nature’s ups and downs and help them discover the power within, to overcome, heal and do the seemingly impossible.”
To learn more about Stepanka Summer, her art and her book finding treasured gold, visit her website.