Tom Smith, RCA (1933-2015)


Born and educated in the United States, (BFA, Pennsylvania State, MFA, Alfred University, New York), Tom Smith moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1971 to take a position as an art instructor in the school system. He went on to teach at the University of New Brunswick in the Faculty of Education, before deciding to pursue sculptural ceramics full time.

Since then he became one of Canada’s best known ceramic artists, receiving numerous awards for his work. In 1992, he received the prestigious Strathbutler Award for Excellence in New Brunswick. In 1999, Smith was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts.

Although many of his pieces were functional, it is the formal elements or sculptural concerns which dominated his work. According to Tom he was intrigued by “the existence of the object in space and the idea and nature of containment. The vessel as a three dimensional object allows and invites endless exploration in form and content”.

The texture of the surfaces was also critical. “I get excited about a tear in clay as opposed to a cut . . . the mark of a broken piece of wood into the clay as opposed to a brush stroke of colour on the surface”. Colour was used primarily to enhance the form and involved sophisticated and often experimental glazes.

Since 1982, he concentrated on Raku, a ceramic process developed in 14th century Japan utilizing a wood fired kiln. Many of his pieces incorporated an oriental aestheticism in conjunction with a very North American inspired use of the natural landscape.

In addition to his ceramic work, Smith continued to produce an ongoing body of two dimensional work, which complemented his ceramic work in mood, tone, inspiration and aesthetic preoccupations.

He participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions and his work is represented in both public and private collections around the world.