Born in the Communist Czech Republic, Stepanka Summer moved to New York City in 1995 at the age of 19, longing for a different life and following her heart. She went from clearing dishes at a café and learning English to a career as a ceramic artist, both making her own art and teaching ceramics at Columbia University-Teachers College. Her ceramic work is represented by Michele Mariaud Gallery in New York City and is exhibited nationally and internationally.
You've worked as an artist for several years, what inspired you to write a book?
In the past couple years, I've felt compelled to share my story, my journey, my transformation as a person and an artist, but writing a book was a dream I would not dare to dream in my wildest dreams. My hands and the art they create had always been my language, but I began to feel that I couldn't say all I wanted to say in porcelain. Writing always seemed like the most intimidating mountain to climb. I'd never even written a poem before, but on January 2nd 2018, I walked into my living room with the television on and saw an interview on PBS with the 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. This was a moment of divine intervention. Writing a book was not so much my decision but destiny deciding for me.
Tell me a bit about the title, finding treasured gold.
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 couldn't be, and the list goes on and on......I always knew there must be more to my struggles, there must be a reason.
I learned how to become an observer, how to step outside of myself, and navigate the complexity of the mind and its connection to the body. I found the power I have to heal myself -- 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 the 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”
How would you define the work?
My book is my story, my found treasures, but it was also the universe moving my fingers across the keyboard, wanting me to share its secrets.
Having inspiration descend in the form of words was truly the most magical, divine experience of my life.
What would you like the reader to take away from your book?
I see my book as a road map, a recipe perhaps on how to find the golden treasure hiding within each and everyone of us.
I hope to bring light and little bit of magic to my readers, so they too can apply it to their own lives.
I would like to help my readers navigate human nature’s ups and downs and help them discover the power within, to overcome, to heal and to do the seemingly impossible.
You worked for many years as an artist. Tell me about your ceramic work?
Ceramics has been one thing I've absolutely loved since I was a child. I would collect handmade ceramics from local artists but never had the opportunity to explore the medium until I came to the USA when I was 19.
Growing up in a little town of South Bohemian Communist Czech Republic, there were simply not many opportunities to learn art.
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. After getting my bearings, one day it came to me, a light bulb went on: ceramics. I always loved and wanted to make ceramics, and at that moment I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, well until the next 'aha' moment of my new calling, my book and writing poetry.
Making ceramics was a hobby for few years, until my dream of becoming a full-time ceramic artist came true. Since then, I have been working mostly in porcelain, making functional as well as sculptural wall pillow installations, and selling my work through a gallery in New York City.
How do you feel your artwork has influenced your writing?
I write about my journey and all I have learned. I write about intuition, beauty, creativity, about the complexity of the mind, about being open to the invisible and the intangible. Most of these lessons came directly from the everyday experience of making ceramic art, from failures for the most part.
Learning how to surrender and just lean into the process, letting go of being attached to the end result, learning how most things can only happen with time, and how you can’t jump over even the tiniest of steps, all has its reason and a purpose, the same goes for life.
My art has always been very intuitive, and now I find myself on a new path where my ceramics is merging with my poetry, and I have yet to see what happens.
Are you working on another book? If so, can you tell me a bit about it?
Yes, my new book is slowly coming to me.
I am listening to that voice that guides everything I do, letting inspiration find me, connecting new dots, navigating new unknown territories in my mind, asking the universe to surprise me because "I know it will be better than any dream I could dream.”
"finding treasured gold" is an autobiographical collection of poems about embracing life's challenges, discovering and finding gifts and extraordinary beauty in pain, loss, fear, childhood stuttering, two breast cancer diagnoses. these poems are to inspire and help you discover the glimpse of magic we all are. the author takes you on a journey digging deep into layers and layers of mind and body, finding herself in unknown depths, painful unseen unimaginable and hitting the mother lode of golden treasure.