Newfoundland ceramist Stefanie Smith specializes in handmade ceramics. She makes a range of functional electric-fired pottery, including mugs, steins and vessels that feature original embossed designs. “I roll out the clay flat and cut it into the shapes I want, and then I assemble it,” she says. “I like to carve and shape my own stamps. I love ornamentation: putting something into a symbolic realm as opposed to a literal realm.” But Smith’s real passion is for smoke-fired and raku-fired ceramics. “It’s a fast-firing technique using a propane-fired kiln that’s outside,” she says. “It allows for a spontaneous mark making and colours. It gives a ‘stoney’ look to the clay.
“People often think it’s carved stone,” she says. She makes a variety of items this way, including puzzle boxes, sculptures and decorative pieces. Sometimes she’ll forgo glazing. “It gives a really smooth, more tactile and warm finish,” she says.
Smith came to ceramics later in her career, after taking a pottery workshop. “I fell in love with it immediately,” she recalls, “At the time, I’d been working as a pet photographer.” Craving more in-depth pottery training, she went on to study ceramics at the Haliburton School of the Arts in Ontario.
And she’s always game to learn more. Later this winter, she’ll be attending two four-week artist residencies at Mountain Seas Art in Australia and Pacific Studio in New Zealand. “I’ll be doing exploratory work focusing on endemic bird species,” she says.
In the meantime, Smith is gearing up for an exhibition called Clearing the Ashes at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Annex Gallery from November 28 to December 19. “We have a diverse history of fossils in this province,” she says. “I’m trying to bring that into my work. I’m drawn to the image of fossils. They’re so ornate. I’m doing pieces that feature fossil motifs.”