Mike Stumbras makes ceramic vessels that are inspired by 18th and 19th century European production ware. The historical objects of his affection are are iconic, optimistic, and present a criterion for western beauty that seems empty in regards to contemporary concerns about the human condition. His work is created primarily on the potter’s wheel with the immediacy and individuality attributed to hand processes and alternative firing methods.
Stumbras embraces this chaotic and imperfect nature of soda firing and handcraft to highlight the beauty and horror of existential uncertainty. With an emphasis on making ceremonial vessels that speak to the passage of time and embrace the propensity for ceramic vessels to be heirloom objects, his work suggests that it could have borne witness to the ebb and flow of civilizations, of ideas, and of people. As an educator, Stumbras is passionate about equipping his students with a developed conceptual and technical framework for art making, as well as a personal method of inquiry that can extend beyond the classroom.
Stumbras was born in Chicago, Illinois. He studied at St. Olaf College, where he received a BFA in Studio Arts and BS in Biology in 2007. Stumbras received an MFA in Ceramics from Louisiana State University in 2017. Stumbras has completed residencies across the country including 323 Clay in Kansas City, Missouri; The Clay Art Center in Port Chester, New York; and the Carbondale Clay Center in Carbondale, Colorado. Formerly a Visiting Professor of Ceramics at the College of William and Mary, Stumbras maintains an active studio and research practice that involves professional publication as well as frequent participation in national and international exhibitions.