"My pieces are very heavily influenced by the different parts of my identity," said Napia. He points out one work, the strings of beads representing the lava flows representative of the time he lived in Hawaii. "They tell the story of my life and acknowledge the wonderful influences that have made me who I am."
Several of Napia's works reflect the stories of New Zealand's Maori tribes. Fish tails wind upward around the sides of larger pots, symbolic of the area of New Zealand Napia's own tribe originated from. Careful, subtle designs symbolizing flax, bay water, sweet potatoes and river water decorating the tails of one pot identify each set of tails as belonging to a specific tribe in the area.
Two other works, showing the faces of a mother and daughter looking up toward the heavens, show the first human being ever created and her daughter, one of the most important goddesses to the Maori.
"I always tell myself that if she didn't want that piece to turn out, she would have made sure it didn't," said Napia, who hopes one day to bring the goddesses and other works home to New Zealand. He describes the work as being tapu, a Maori word that most closely translates into "very spiritual." "The depths of our identities are buried in these pieces."
Napia found handbuilt pottery while teaching and working on his doctorate at the University of Utah, hoping that taking the class would relieve some of his stress. Instead, it developed into a passion that took him away from the career in education that he considered to be less rewarding.
"I liked who I was when I was doing art," said Napia. "I didn't like who I was when I was dealing with the politics of the University."
Even now, that art continues to grow. Some of his most recent works have reflected the culture of his adopted brother, Radford Cuch, an artist from the Northern Ute tribe.
These pieces, which he will unveil at Summerfest, feature beaded details added to the pots after they've been fired. One piece, featuring a thicker ring of beadwork along the pot's outside edge, was done in collaboration with his brother.
"I think his work is of a finer quality than mine," said Napia, who also pointed out several pen-and-ink drawings created by his brother.
In addition to the pots Napia also has created several gracefully swayed sculptures of women in Native American and Japanese costume, each reflecting Napia's fascination rather than his own life.
Though like his pots each sculpture is carefully, mathematically balanced, the sculptures are graced with tiny, non-clay details like flowers, feathers or metal fans to compensate for what he feels he cannot provide with his touch.
"I can't give them a spirit like a Japanese or Native American artist could," said Napia. "They have to create that on their own."