Powell received a BA degree in painting and ceramics from Centre College, his MFA degree in ceramics from Louisiana State University. It is here that he began experimenting with glass. He is represented in such museums as the Cleveland Museum of Art (OH), Detroit Institute of Arts (MI), Auckland Museum (New Zealand), Mobile Museum of Fine Art (AL), Rufino Tamayo Museum (Mexico), the Hermitage Museum and Red May Glass Museum (Russia) and the Birmingham Museum of Art (AL).
Stephen Rolfe Powell’s glass vessels are flawless works of art. Their bulbous shape, large size (often more than 40 inches high), brilliant colors, and fanciful titles captivate the viewer’s imagination.
Powell's forms often resemble the gestures and postures of the human figure. Whether round, flat, double or triple lobed, the vessels narrow into an elegant and elongated neck.
He is a perfectionist. His mosaic palette of peacock colors consists of up to 3,000 murrini (slices of colorful glass cane) in each work. “I was drawn to the process of glassblowing because of the immediacy and intensity of this art form,” Powell notes. The precision required in the blowing process and complexities of Powell’s colorful designs mean that roughly only one of five vessels reach galleries and museums.
It is the work of Monet that made Powell decide he wanted to be an artist, the work of Mark Rothko and Kenneth Noland who peaked his interest in color, and Jackson Pollock whose physicality and directness left a lasting impression.