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home : art & exhibits : art & exhibits September 27, 2016

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10/8/2012 9:05:00 AM
22nd annual Sedona Arts Festival returns this weekend
Ceramic Pug by Michael and Sumati Colpitts
Ceramic Pug by Michael and Sumati Colpitts

As an Air Force captain, Michael Colpitts flew Boeing 707 refueling tankers. With TWA (which merged with American Airlines in 2001), he held the pilot engineer's seat on 737s and 707s waiting for an upgrade to co-pilot. After a couple of furloughs, he didn't like the view.

So, he sailed down the eastern seaboard to the Bahamas, met some folks who lived in Spain and thought "what a great place to start what I really wanted to do - work in clay."

Today, 30 years later, rather than firing up twin 985,000-horsepower jet engines, Colpitts ignites the self-built, high-fire stoneware ceramic kiln that sits behind one of his two Sedona studios and reaches 2,300 degrees.

Colpitts' passion - his inner fire, if you will - for working in clay began as a senior at the University of New Hampshire studying hotel administration and where he mixed art history and a course in ceramics into his curriculum.

"I still get goose bumps just saying it," Colpitts said recently on a break between his most-recent passion - abstract painting - and the kiln where he was firing ceramic pieces created by he and his wife, Sumati, who can actually stand straight up inside the kiln (before the heat goes on, of course).

"When I was in college and everyone was going to football games on Saturdays, I was in the clay studio using my instructor's wheel. That started my passion."

The outcome of that focus will be on exhibit in two forms at the 22nd annual Sedona Arts Festival, Oct. 13 and 14 at Sedona Red Rock High School, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

The Colpitts - Michael and Sumati ( - will operate two booths: one featuring their collaborative indoor/outdoor ceramic animals and figurative sculptures and handmade pottery and a second with Michael's vibrant-colored abstract paintings.

They'll be among 125 juried artists displaying and selling artwork in ceramic, drawing, fiber art, glass, jewelry, metal, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture and wood.

The Festival runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

Proceeds support the Sedona Arts Festival scholarship program. Since 1989, nearly $300,000 in scholarships and arts grants have been awarded to programs and individual artists in the Verde Valley.

In addition to the Kidzone - an interactive, safe and creative environment for kids 12 and under - a raffle and the Gourmet Gallery featuring locally produced and packaged food items, this year's Festival will be highlighted by a booth and demonstration of highly sought-after Mata Ortiz pottery.

Two second-generation Mata Ortiz artists, the husband and wife team of Lila Silveira and Carlos Carrillo, will travel from the remote Mexican village renowned for its thin-walled, remarkably detailed and colorful pottery to demonstrate their work at the Festival and answer questions after screenings of "The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz," a documentary film on contemporary Mexican art and culture at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre.

Screenings are scheduled at 4 p.m., Thursday, Oct 11 and 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13.

Tickets are $10 and benefit the Sedona Arts Festival Scholarship Fund.

Admission to the Festival at the gate is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors 60 years and older and students with ID.

Online tickets are available - $8 for everyone at Children 12 and under are free of charge.

Michael and Sumati Colpitts first met in an India ashram where Michael was working in clay.

"We went our separate ways and met again 12 years later in Sedona, ended up getting married and started working together," Michael explained.

Of course, not every couple is equipped - mentally, emotionally or creatively - to work side by side. The Colpitts may be the exception, but they're not too far from the rule.

"How do we do it? We have two studios. We both want to be the boss," Michael said with a laugh. "But the fact is we each have areas of expertise. We work together on certain things, but she's been taking over the claywork so I can paint. But I still do all the firing."

Their ceramic work has gained traction among collectors around the world and several of Sumati's frogs are mounted in the fountain outside of the Crystal Vortex in Uptown Sedona.

"Our clay work can go indoors or outdoors," Michael said. "But I'm still amazed that I can look at our stuff and say it came out of a bag of mud."

For information about the Festival and links to artist websites, visit

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