September 27, 2004: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Art: Sculpture: Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal : El Salvador RPCV Richard Sumons finds profit as full-time sculptor

Peace Corps Online: Directory: El Salvador: Peace Corps El Salvador : The Peace Corps in El Salvador: September 27, 2004: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Art: Sculpture: Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal : El Salvador RPCV Richard Sumons finds profit as full-time sculptor

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El Salvador RPCV Richard Sumons finds profit as full-time sculptor

El Salvador RPCV Richard Sumons finds profit as full-time sculptor

El Salvador RPCV Richard Sumons finds profit as full-time sculptor

Profile: Richard J. Summons; Sculpture, Sinking Spring artist finds profit as full-time sculptor

Sep 27, 2004

Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal
by Terry Scott Reed

Richards Summons says he had wanted to become an artist as far back as memory takes him.

That's why when he graduated from high school, it was natural for him to attend Philadelphia College of Art (in 1991, that institution became known as the University of the Arts). There he obtained a BFA degree in 3-D Design, with an eye toward a career in commercial art.

But a post-college stint in the Peace Corps, where the emphasis was on helping others, shaped and influenced the rest of Summons' life and artistic career.

Summons was sent to El Salvador in Central America. Because he grew up on a farm he worked with the Department of Agriculture. But volunteers were encouraged to become involved with their communities in as many ways as they can, and Summons discovered that another reason he was sent to the area was that there were three potteries operating in the area.

The Peace Corps hoped that Summons would draw on his college education to perhaps assist the potters. Summons says that he spent three years working side by side with the locals, and learned all of their techniques before he suggested any changes.

"There were lots of things I could have suggested," he says. "But you have to consider the impact any changes might have on the culture of the area. just increasing production, for example, could be disastrous. Changing the thickness would have impact that would have to be considered, as would anything affecting the selling price."

Summons learned the local way of making glazes and colors from scratch. The technique was quite different from the American method of ordering the glazes and colors you wanted from suppliers and awaiting delivery. One local pottery, for instance, made its distinctive brown color from spent flashlight batteries.

Summons did teach the local artisans how to utilize a closed- kiln method to fire the product, which reduced the time needed to fire finished goods. Eventually, he developed the ceramics department for the Bachillera-to En Artes, and founded the National School of Ceramics, both in San Salvador.

Today, Summons devotes much of his time to corporate commissions. Working from a rural studio near Sinking Spring, he creates sculptures and bas reliefs.

Making a living as an artist requires a mix of many efforts, not all of them purely associated with art, Summons says. For example, Summons has found that it helps his visibility with potential business clients to belong to area chambers of commerce. To this end, he is active in both the Berks and Lancaster chambers in addition to his artrelated affiliations. He also speaks on the topic of art to Kiwanis Clubs, scout troops and other organizations.

Summons not only accepts commissions from private individuals but he also actively seeks out commissions for corporate and organizational-awards, public art installations, corporate lobby pieces, and from private individuals.

Like many who want to make a living from art, Summons has from time to time had to work at jobs beyond his field, but he has been a full-time artist since 1996.

A big factor in enabling him to be a fulltime artist was a connection he made with a bronze foundry. The foundry uses Summons to execute full-sized originals of many of the commissions they receive. Often, the foundry will be provided with just drawings or miniatures of the object to be cast. In those instances, the company hires an artist like Summons to work for them on a per-job basis.

"You're working as the artisan, not the artist," Summons says. "Your name isn't associated with the finished piece."

While some of the jobs involved enlarging work from six to eight inches up to 24 to 48 inches, others had to be enlarged to life- size and greater. One significant job involved sculpting a 10-foot tall Native American with an 18-foot-long birch bark canoe.

It's easy to see why Summons' work looks as good as it does. After talent, practice is the best thing an artist can gain. Summons has produced an impressive quantity of work that includes 17 life- sized children's figures for Citrus Park, Fla.; 20 life-sized children's figures for Durham, N.C.; 63 twice-life-sized assorted animals for Roseville, Calif.; assorted awards and private commissions, some involving multiple pieces; and public commissions.

Summons says that work from the foundry dropped severely following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but that it is steadily climbing and he hopes to see it back at former levels soon.

In the interim, Summons stimulates business by exhibiting at shows, and mailing marketing pieces to businesses. He also conducts classes, and has taught at the Philadelphia College of Art; several schools in Central America; Reading Area Community College; and the Community School of Music and the Arts, Reading.

The artist also offers private classes at his studio. He advertises in the magazine Sporting Classics, a high-end outdoors publication, his only paid advertising.

Summons says he may target a specific geographic area where he would like to be represented. "Then, I'll just go and bang on the doors of the various galleries, until I can get the representation I want."

Summons also retains an agent who calls on galleries and corporate clients. He maintains a Web site at , and his promotional literature is designed to drive potential clients to the site, where they can see the range of his work.

Making a living in art is different from most people's assumptions. For many, it's better. Richard Summons varies his routine by alternating teaching and sculpting, and by varying the work that he does. He says that it never gets boring.

Copyright Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal Sep 27, 2004

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Story Source: Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - El Salvador; Art; Sculpture



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