Grouping of Jars at MFA Thesis Exhibition. Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art, Fort Hays State University, December 2017.

Herrick Hill Smith

Biography

Herrick Smith was born and raised in Saint Augustine, Florida, and from a young age has appreciated the beauty found in nature. As a boy, he would often go adventuring in the coastal woods and subsequently developed a deep love for the natural processes found there. Standing on a foundation of pot sherds left by the Timucua potters of centuries past, It is fitting that his first introduction to clay was in the form of boyhood pinch pots from the same clay beds used by the Timucua so long ago. In high school and through the end of college he worked as a blacksmith at the Colonial Quarter, a museum about colonial Spanish Florida and earned his BA in Economics from the University of North Florida in 2013 with a minor in Environmental Science. While at college, searching for a creative outlet he took his first ceramics elective and continued to take elective courses and conduct independent research in ceramics during his time there. Several months after graduation he moved to Gardner Kansas and spent 8 months as an apprentice at Spinning Earth Pottery with Danny Meisinger.

During this apprenticeship Smith rapidly gained skill at the potter’s wheel with respect to functional pottery as well as the use of the wheel as a tool to create larger scale works of art. Nearing the end of his apprenticeship Smith was accepted to Graduate School and in the fall of 2014 he began graduate studies at Fort Hays State University (FHSU).  Exhibiting nationally and internationally, Smith is currently working with wheel thrown vessels, and sculptural forms. The recipient of several funded research grants, Smith is conducting award-winning research into local clays and developing clay body recipes. Prior to his completion of the MFA degree Smith accepted a position at the University of North Florida as the laboratory technician for Ceramics and Sculpture and currently lives in Saint Augustine, FL with his wife Laura.

 

Artist Statement

The natural beauty of the estuarine and hammock environment of the North East Florida coast deeply impacted me at an early age. Especially beautiful are the delicate plants, mosses, and fungi which showcase the great diversity of shapes and colors that are inherent to the flourishing of these elegant flora. The gentle and earthy color palette of the swamp merging with the forest floor is at once rich and full of life as well as hushed and sedate. Capturing the intrinsic beauty of color and form found in the sandy hammock environments just upland of the salty estuaries, the quiet forms are organic and allow for a diversity of surface treatments that bless the piece with anonymity of process and eternal variation.

Recognizing the ever-present hardships in life, the work allows the viewer to experience the embrace of nature and find refuge from the constant bombardment so prevalent in our contemporary culture. As creators of culture, it is the responsibility of the artist to create a more just and verdant life for all who engage with their work. I do this through the creation of objects that lack the facade of constructed meaning and exist to bring beauty, lacking obvious commentary, into the lives of others. Contemporary social critics have become seduced with the negative and has led to a desensitization of the public from the very issues those voices are attempting to address. Society has become enraptured with the grotesque and the abject while beauty is rejected for lacking relevance. I argue that leading a beautiful life and providing inspiration for others to do the same possesses an equal if-not greater importance.

With the continued globalization of our society, the history of the world is at our fingertips. The artist is no longer restricted to a familial or apprenticeship tradition but can draw from an artistic heritage as old as the symbolic mark. My training as a blacksmith impacts the work through a predisposition towards a historical reference as well as lending an appreciation for the rhythms of the fire and attention to detail in finishing processes. The beauty and power of time, in concert with nature, displayed in subtle details translates nature into culture and affords the viewer a glimpse of the rare beauty seen by a walker on the paths lacing my native coast.