Meet the artist behind FP gift shop fave Victoria Smith Ceramics.
Like many artists and craftspeople I’ve had the pleasure of putting before my lens, Victoria Smith is a bit camera shy. A common trait it seems among those who pour their heart and soul into the objects they create, the hours spent diligently developing their craft somehow fusing self with object. It’s not until the artist is comfortably situated within their studio, in front of their chosen discipline, that the thread comes into view, the tie that binds brain with hand with craft. Suddenly the world around them ebbs and an enviable kind of calm rushes in, ushering out any camera-related anxiety that may have nagged before. The artist at work. It’s a phenomenon I’ve come to deeply appreciate, observing a maker become completely engrossed in her work, her love and passion for what she does radiating out like an aura. Pennsylvania-based ceramicist Victoria Smith, whose exclusive collection of pieces can be found in our holiday-ready gift shop, possesses just such an aura, one of positive energy and pure joy for her creative profession.
Last week I traveled beyond Philadelphia’s city limits, to a small town that I likely would have never visited had I not fallen head over heels for the gorgeous collection of pieces created by Smith for Free People. Organic, raw yet beautifully refined, Smith’s heirloom-worthy work feels at once familiar and completely fresh. The patterns present in the cream and gilded glazes evoking the architectural and textile influence she draws from, lines and forms observed in the stained glass of churches, in weavings and vintage fabrics. These are the kind of perfectly-sized mugs that will replace all the others in your cabinet (large enough for two tea bags or one giant, incredibly satisfying cup of coffee, Smith’s pick-me-up of choice), incense dishes that make a simple act one to be relished, match strikers that create ritual within the everyday, and tea strainers that invite calming meditation in a mundane task. In her sunny kitchen studio ,with her sweet cat Max by her side, Victoria Smith transforms shapeless lumps of clay into these extraordinary objects, her hands shaping pieces that will be cherished by their recipients for years to come. Read on to learn more about her and to see her at work.
Ceramics is such an incredible art form, have you always worked with your hands?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always associated myself with being a maker. one of my earliest childhood memories is the moment I found out I won the kindergarten coloring contest. I remember feeling elated with joy. I think I’ve spent my whole life chasing that feeling; being rewarded for your passion is probably the best feeling in the world. As I got older I came to realize I could spread that joy to others by sharing my work with them. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. Being a maker is medicine for my soul.
Could you share a bit about your path — how did you discover ceramics as your main discipline?
I went to Tyler School of Art with the intention of becoming a painter. It was during the recession and I remember being terrified to make the leap. I knew I’d have to pay my own way and the possibility of making a living as an artist was not exactly promising. But you only have one life and you might as well spend it taking chances towards happiness. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I discovered ceramics. I had an amazing teacher who was so passionate about clay. He saw something special in me and knew how to nurture it. It wasn’t long before I was literally dreaming about clay. All at once I became really excited about my future and I was determined to make this my life.
The town where you live is so gorgeous, but definitely tiny! Why did you choose to live and create art in a small town over a more metropolitan area?
I love the city. I love the energy it feeds me, the limitless resources it provides, the accessibility to art history and culture. But I need stillness to recharge. I consider my home a resting place, so it’s really important for me to be in an environment that is serene and peaceful where I can decompress and regroup my thoughts.
Do you feel living where you do informs your work at all?
I think I could make work anywhere, although I find I am most creative in an aesthetically-pleasing environment. I live in an old Victorian with a lot of old world character. My studio is backed up right to a large bay window overlooking my yard. I’m a nature nerd so it really brings me joy to watch the plethora of wildlife enjoying the land and the sunset coming over the river. It’s perfect.
Victoria Smith Ceramics is not your only gig – tell us about your 9 to 5…
You’re right, I’m definitely a workaholic. I’m the full-time school accounts manager at a ceramic supply company in Philadelphia called The Ceramic Shop. All of my clientele are art teachers or ceramic artists, so it’s a great way for me to keep active in the clay community and help other people with their craft. Every day is a learning experience which continually helps me grow as an artist.
With a full time job and a full-time commitment to your ceramics work, when do you create? Walk us through a day in the life of Victoria…
My day is crazy. First thing first: coffee. Lots of coffee. I wake up early and make the 1 1/2 hour trek to Philadelphia. My day is long but fulfilling. I usually leave work around 7, get home around 8, make dinner, maybe do the dishes, and work in my studio for about four hours. Although I desperately try not to, once or twice a week I tend to stay up until 4am working in my studio. I’m a total night owl — but I try to keep super late nights to a minimum because there’s not any amount of coffee that can get me through the following day with a level head on my shoulders. I generally spend all of Saturday and Sunday working in my studio and somehow find time to watch American Horror Story with my husband and kitty cat. I think I get some laundry done somewhere in between, but I’m not sure how…
I love the patterns and colors featured within your work – especially the pieces you created exclusively for Free People. What was the inspiration behind this particular collection?
I get most of my inspiration from historical Indian textiles and architecture, but Im also known to frequent the gothic churches of Philadelphia — finding incredible beauty and craftsmanship in every crevice of the structures. I’m obsessed with color and pattern so, when I’m not elbow-deep in clay, I’m painting patterns with watercolors on my living room floor. When Free People approached me about designing this line, I immediately went to my brush and got to work. I knew I wanted to capture the Free People aesthetic, but I didn’t have to look far beyond my intuitive inspirations.
What’s something you hope to accomplish in the next year?
I’m always trying to accomplish something! It keeps me moving in a forward direction. I’m honestly really happy being where I am in life right now. I have two wonderful jobs, a beautiful family and a passion for life. I couldn’t ask for more. I’m honestly living out my dream. I never hoped for anything other than spreading my joy for craft with the world. I couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish that than working with Free People.
+ Shop Victoria Smith Ceramics on Free People