Craig Mitchell Smith’s glass garden includes a bounty of massive dandelions gone to seed, graceful grapevines on bowing arbors, and brilliant fields of poppies and sunflowers. The Lansing, Michigan, artist has been creating floral forms in kilnformed glass since 2006 using revolutionary techniques that have poised him as one of the most innovative kiln glass artists in America today.
Originally a painter, theatrical set designer, home restorer, and flower arranger, Smith followed a random road into fused glassmaking that has now taken him around the world. Entirely self-taught in glass, the artist believes that his eclectic background and skills with stagecraft influence his methods and how he thinks about his current medium. Smith’s aesthetic is decidedly theatrical, his style quite painterly.
Split nearly evenly between private home installations and custom work including chandeliers, Smith’s glass art is displayed at the Canyon Road Contemporary Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at galleries in Orlando, Florida, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in two galleries in his home state of Michigan. His glass creations range in size from small precious pieces such as an ornament he fabricated for the National Christmas Tree in 2010—a red cardinal in a crystal nest designed to rest on a branch—to large multipiece installations exhibited in botanical gardens.
Imagining himself painting a flower, Smith thinks of cutting glass as brush strokes and of the kiln as a canvas. Self taught in engineering and welding, the artist creates all armatures and frames for his glass flowers. To introduce movement, to allow his glass to be more organic and beautiful, custom-bent stainless steel and molded components are designed to follow the current. With grace and kinetic capability, Smith achieves the loose, organic qualities of living botanicals.
Smith’s artwork has been displayed in locations such as Cooley Gardens and Michigan State University, Lansing, Michigan; Epcot Center at Disney World, Orlando, Florida; the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota; Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha Botanical Center, in Omaha, Nebraska, and many more. His largest show to date took place at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, and was on exhibit through August 2017. The artist designed 30 brand new sculptures for this show at the famed Climatron. Currently, Smith is developing new detailed sculptures including myriad orchids for a future botanical exhibition.
He says: “I don’t want my work to be an exclamation point in the gardens. I want it to be the comma.”