A Short Biography of Craig Mitchell Smith – Glass Artist
Born and raised in Lansing, Michigan, and able to trace two family lines to the Mayflower, Craig Mitchell Smith adores his home and homeland. Here in Lansing, he acquired his early inspiration. Here, in Lansing, lie his artistic roots. Here in Lansing, Craig Mitchell Smith creates his stunning glass work.
Moments etched in his soul are those in which he connects with nature. As a young boy, Craig was the youngest member of the Orchid Society. At thirteen he received his first greenhouse. One of his early memories found him alone exploring the lush, softly lit forest in his backyard high on the banks of the Grand River. Knowing winter was coming made him savor the image all the more. His first painting depicted a lily for his great aunt. He recalls marking a 12 inch square in the yard, and nose to nose with the earth, attempted to record everything that could be seen there; an impossible exercise! Rooted in nature, captivated by it’s beauty and wonder, Craig unknowingly began growing his artistic future.
After moving from home at 18, Craig ventured on a 14 year journey stretching his mind, soul and spirit. His favorite college classes included those in psychology during which he discovered the fascinating complexity of the human mind. He acted in a few local productions, but preferred set design. Soon after, while living in Portland, Oregon, he branched out further into the world of design. Craig owned a flower shop, became more involved in set design, planned and executed weddings both here and abroad, provided interior design consultation and expertise, and painted. He stretched himself into any and all opportunities provided him.
The birth of his niece brought Craig back to Michigan in his early thirties. He continued freelancing as a designer doing more expansive weddings, providing set design for nearly every local troupe, and completely redesigning his Frank Lloyd Wright style family home after purchasing it from his parents’ estate. His home in Lansing remains his centering retreat.
Branching into a single class in kiln-formed glass at Delphi Glass in Lansing, thrilled and excited him. Instantly, Craig managed cuts impossible to the instructor; the processes came easily to him. Craig discovered he could ‘paint’ with glass. He knew he was on to something.
A call from HGTV, to set up an appointment to film his home, but inquiring about that “blue sculpture in the background” (a very early experimental glass sculpture re-purposing a gazing ball), set Craig to purchasing his own kiln and creating glass pieces transforming his basement into a studio just in time for the video taping…of his glass work! Craig’s kiln-formed glass art appeared in 15 gallery shows from 2006-2010. In 2009, Craig became the first recipient of the now annually awarded Individual Arts Grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. This grant funded the materials for his first public garden exhibition at Cooley Law School Gardens. Soon thereafter, he exhibited at the gardens of Michigan State University. In October, 2010, Craig opened Craig Mitchell Smith Glass Gallery in Meridian Mall, Okemos, Michigan, the largest single artist gallery in the state.
As his space, resources and time to create blossomed, so did Craig’s vision and delight from the public. Craig’s beautiful sculptures combining his love of nature, organic forms, color and storytelling have found their way into gardens, homes and businesses locally, nationally and abroad. He has had displays at the Cooley Gardens, Dow Gardens, Michigan State University Perennial Gardens, Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Disney Epcot Center, the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, Orlando International Airport and more.
Craig’s unique approach to kiln-formed glass combines fusing, ingenious texturing, slumping and cold working to create the pieces he displays. Often working in collaboration with metal artists Mike Magnotta and Jim Cunningham, Craig has engineered both small and large scale glass and metal sculptures to enhance nature. Much like a blossom calls our attention to the plants around it, Craig’s pieces stop us in our tracks, emphasizing the beauty of nature around us and awakening us fully to experience it. His knowledge and experiences from his roots to the skills acquired as he branched into set lighting and design, painting, floral work and interior design have nurtured his artistic gift; the blossom from it is ours to appreciate and enjoy.