Ceramic teacher SIUE Stumbras joins the show

On this week’s episode of Segue, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s weekly radio show exploring the lives and work of people on campus and beyond, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) , Kevin Leonard, PhD, interviews Michael Stumbras, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Design.

This episode of Segue airs at 9 a.m. on Sunday, March 27. Listeners can tune into WSIE 88.7 FM The Sound or siue.edu/wsie.

Stumbras studied at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, earning both a BFA in Studio Art and a BS in Biology in 2007. He has completed residencies at 323 Clay in Independence, Mo.; The Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY; and the Carbondale Clay Center in Carbondale, Colorado. Stumbras went on to earn a master’s degree in ceramics from Louisiana State University in 2017 before joining the SIUE ceramics faculty in the fall of 2021.

Stumbras first became interested in photography in high school, but after losing his father when he was 16, he says he needed an outlet. It was then that he became involved in the ceramics program offered by his high school in Oak Park, Illinois.


“Ceramics had this perfect blend of tangible and physical ability to register in clay,” Stumbras begins. “And I was also very privileged that there was a very good ceramics institute near my home, within walking distance – Terra Incognito Clay.”

He continues to talk about his first use of porcelain as cementing his love of clay, as the mental focus, fine motor skills and practice required to create with it provided an emotional outlet.

“You got a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Biology. How did you end up studying both, and what ultimately led you to choose your career path in art? asks Leonardo.

“One of the reasons I chose St. Olaf College is because it’s in Minnesota, which has an incredibly rich tradition and ethos when it comes to ceramics,” Stumbras shares. “At the same time, I’ve always been interested in science. I think there is this perception that the scientific discipline and the artistic discipline are very different practices.

“But I was interested in looking within and studying the physical machinations that make up my body. Art is a similar kind of inner thought, but it was more conceptual. And these things go together.

“Was there a point in your college career when you realized you wanted to make ceramics a living?” Leonardo asks.

“Yeah, during the summers I would go back to Oak Park and tutor the kids at Terra Incognito,” Stumbras continues. “At that time, I met my mentor, Steven Hill, who is now based in Kansas City. I took a workshop with him and we hit it off. Hearing him talk about ceramics in a way incredibly nuanced and developed, I realized that there was all this people behind the making, and it was really this discipline that interested me more than anything.

Tune in at 9 a.m. Sunday, March 27 on WSIE 88.7 The Sound to hear the whole conversation.

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