Born in 1955 in Augusta Georgia, Richard Zane Smith is regarded as one of the most unique contemporary potters. Richard Zane Smith is a potter of Wyandot whose remarkable pots consist of small hand rolled coils of natural clays, which inspired by prehistoric corrugated pottery of the Southwest which then is slip painted. His pieces look like beautifully woven baskets – but when one looks closely, you realize that they are actually works of clay, in Richard’s own unique style of corrugation. Richard was inspired by corrugated shards from hundreds of years ago. His work is easily identifiable, as he often adds contemporary intricate designs using fascinating color combinations and added materials like stone and wood.
Here are a few words from Richard as he explains his interest in the art form. “My art education began as a child at home in Missouri. In the evenings all five of us kids would gather round listening and drawing quietly while Dad or Mom would read wonderful books to us. Clay excited me from high school and all through my art school years though I enjoyed working with all kinds of natural materials, from leather to stone to wood. During these years, investigating my own native (Wyandot) roots became something of an obsession with me. In 1978, I worked as an art instructor at a Navajo mission school in Arizona. It was there that I was first exposed to native clays, and Anasazi pot sherds. Having a rich yet mixed-blooded heritage has been difficult for me at times to sort things out and it still provides its challenges. But I am actively involved with other Wendat/Wyandots who are restoring traditions and reviving our language. I have a dream to help restore to our people the pottery traditions of our ancestors as has happened among the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest.”
This new bowl, called “Manswirl” is a wonderfully creative piece by Richard. It is hand coiled, corrugated and painted and then wooden and ivory figures are added on the top. The bottom surface was covered with a black slip and fired hard. then it was painted with a red-brown slip, burnished and fired again with less heat, and then it was etched, scratching away the red to reveal the harder black underneath. As to the meaning and significance of the design – here is Richard’s explanation. “This piece is about our creek and aftermath from a flash flood which changes everything. It swirls snagging debris and floating roots, rounding and grinding the wood, exposing new stones, spirals gravel, and patterns the sands. The beings below represent the unseen forces within nature responding and interacting by arranging new placements of all these materials into patterns of beauty. I humanize spirits, not because spirits are at all human in shape or form, but it's done to respectfully recognize them as the mysterious entities they are so entwined and active in the Creators world we share.” Please enjoy this new bowl and all it represents by Richard.
- 7" high by 10" wide