During a good portion of our interview at Little Amps, Amy LeFever was staring at the brick wall behind me in the Harrisburg coffee shop.
“I love a lot of the textures in there, the patterns—how it’s breaking down,” she said. “That’s as good as my piece in the State Museum. I would hang that.”
It’s everyday sights like these that inspire LeFever and help launch her into her next project. The Middletown resident created hundreds of ceramic pieces full of unique textures and patterns. One of her latest works, rectangular white tile pieces covered in diagonal lines and divots, landed her first place this year in the ceramics category of the annual “Art of the State” competition.
“It was a sense of affirmation of what you do,” said LeFever, a HACC adjunct professor. “I came in and hung the piece myself. I was kind of nervous about it. It was something I shouldn’t have been nervous about, but I was. I was thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong, but it went super smoothly.”
Before her piece was hung in the State Museum, before winning numerous awards, and before traveling across the country to study art, LeFever was a musician. She started playing classical piano when she was in the third grade, her favorite being Chopin.
It was in high school when LeFever first started “messing around” with art. Her sister Letitia, who was an artist, would fish out clay from the creek behind their house and together they would create different creatures and objects from it.
It wasn’t until she started at HACC in 2004 that she really fell into the ceramics world. For her general studies major, she needed an art elective, so she took “Ceramics 1.”
“It sucked me right in,” she said. “I just spent all my time in there, and then I just continued down that path.”
From then, she won first and second place in two student art exhibits at HACC and was a featured artist in the Radius Gallery in the State Museum.
After earning her associate’s degree, LeFever studied at Alfred University in New York and earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Her art then took her across the world to study at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute in China. For a month, LeFever went sightseeing in various cities, such as Shanghai, and learned different clay techniques.
“[My favorite part] was seeing ceramics in a new way, a new place, and working with new material,” she said.
Between her residencies at HACC and George Fox University in Oregon—and eventually earning her masters at the University of Tennesee in 2018—LeFever created numerous pieces and even dove into new media such as fabric work and digital design.
It wasn’t until three years ago that she started to really develop her signature look. Her art is known for having unique shapes and lines and for mixing different textures and patterns. It wasn’t something that was planned out or analyzed. According to LeFever, usually, when she is working on a piece, she doesn’t have a final look in mind. Instead, her work is the result of a series of reactions from the time she initiates the piece until she feels as if it’s finished.
“In some ways, I have a few different trajectories in ceramics that all come together at a certain point,” she said. “ I love rough sorts of textures and really playing with the material.”
Her upbringing also had a part in shaping her, and, therefore, her art. Living in Lancaster County with her conservative Mennonite family but going to church on Herr Street in Harrisburg, she saw a lot of different cultures mixing together.
When LeFever was in the eighth grade, her eldest sister was in a car accident that severely altered her brain.
“There was a certain tearing apart of the physicality of her brain, but also our family and how that changes you,” she said. “I always played with the concept of making a form, cutting it apart and reassembling it in different ways.”
Though these and other events have influenced her, she doesn’t really show them through her art.
“I wouldn’t say that my art is depicting these things, but they are integral to who I am,” she said. “I don’t think it’s why I’m interested in that certain visual language, but it just sort of makes sense to me.”
When asked what’s next, she shrugged and laughed. Her family keeps her pretty busy so she doesn’t have a firm timeframe for her art. However, she is still on the hunt for new shows, and, she says, making new art is always the goal.
But right now, having her work hanging in the State Museum where hundreds of people can see it—that’s enough for her.
You can check out Amy LeFever’s work at “Art of the State” at the State Museum of Pennsylvania through Sept. 8. To see more, visit her website at www.amylefever.com.