To Share In Crafted Thoughts
The artistic life of Emma Smith, thinker and observer.
Maichina Veri, February 14, 2022 // Brantford, Ontario
Emma Smith in their studio. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Amid snow-blanketed fields rests Jerseyville. Blink and you might miss it when passing through, but in that blink exists Emma Smith. An artist, though more importantly a thinker and an observer, Emma has made this village home, and in this quiet space she crafts her life. Through ceramics, photography, writing and theatre Emma tells stories about the world around her. She doesn’t aim to say anything specific, but rather Emma’s goal is to explore, understand and share.
Emma tries to lead a simple life, but there is nothing simple about her art. Her work is complex not only in that it’s crafted, but also crafted from experiences and deep thoughts that tell volumes of interesting stories. The story will not be spelled out for you though as it’s part of the audience’s job to experience it for themselves. Part of the beauty of art, and of Emma’s art, is finding a way to relate to it.
"Emma tries to lead a simple life, but there is nothing simple about her art. Her work is complex not only in that it’s crafted, but also crafted from experiences and deep thoughts that tell volumes of interesting stories."
“Art is for the experience of the maker making it and the experience of the audience receiving it. We’re all different people and we have different backgrounds and histories and different ways of perceiving the world so naturally we would perceive art very differently,” Emma says. Knowing the particulars of what the story is about dilutes the experience. As an example, Emma speaks to great love songs that are surely about certain people, though these songs feel specific to our experiences with the people we love.
Emma's work and at work. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
While Emma might not be handing you the cheat sheets to her art, she does pursue a recurring theme of relationship with place. She has been considering her relationships with places such as her childhood home and neighbourhood, environmental landscape and community for years which helps her consider the purpose of this life. Emma’s art is an exploration of environment and of how humans live and participate in it, which is something she suggests we don’t think of very often. “I’m as much a part of the earth as rocks are part of the earth and birds are part of the earth. We’re all here together. It’s not a separate thing like that’s the environment and this is people. People are the environment. My art practice is really just a product of me trying to figure all that out, understand that and explore that.”
It is no surprise then that nature influences Emma. Taking hikes is important and is considered work time. Emma is drawn to the “rawness” of nature and the cycles of it, and appreciates how every month has a new landscape. She demonstrates, “There is something about nature that is very approachable and soft while also being very harsh. Think of rocks and moss that coexist together. Tactilely they are very different.” This is interesting to Emma as she works with clay – a soft material that comes from the ground and then becomes hard like rock. Emma wants to make work that can live in these spaces – that can be used indoors, but almost feels like it should be outdoors.
Emma focused on a new creation. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Emma has been pursuing ceramics for 12 years and it is the artistic medium she has honed the most of all her disciplines, though all of them intertwine. Witnessing and translating her surroundings, Emma weaves her thoughts through her media, cross-referencing sometimes without even realizing it. All of this seems to be in an effort to share. “What makes being a human so special and fascinating is that we have the ability to communicate on a really deep level that I think we don’t really take advantage of. There is a really profound connection we can have by sharing this life with each other. The golden ticket to have a fulfilling life is connecting with other things, your environment and other people. And that’s the purpose of art too,” Emma explains.
Emma also didn’t realize at the start of her artistic journey that she could have a career as an artist. She always had an interest in the creative, and seeing her teachers and their art practice and lifestyle was intriguing. Emma let herself follow the route and the career part fell into place when she allowed herself to focus on pottery. For a time, she was a part of the Brantford Potters Guild as a ceramic arts instructor. You can now find Emma doing freelance work through her business Emma Smith Ceramics and at the general store Black & Smith in Jerseyville. Emma also shares her artwork online at emmasmithceramics.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.