Scott Smith

Special Faculty & Director, the SHOP

Scott Smith earned his BFA in Sculpture at Carnegie Mellon University.  He worked with wood and bent steel in a minimal style and learned detailed carpentry and welding.  He pursued metal casting using resin sand molds while making biomorphic forms.  He also studied calligraphy, 2D design composition,painting, photography, printmaking, and ceramics.

Smith received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He continued with casting, simplifying his biomorphic form, and soon gravitated to steel fabrication. Under the influence of Michael Hall he became interested in American folk art.  Michael observed that the work of outsider folk artists often reflects the geography and topography of the region in which they work. At Cranbrook, like the folk artist, Scott first started depicting the hills and valleys of his home in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, but soon his work began to stretch out horizontally as he began to incorporate the rural Michigan farm landscape. Then he began to depict the industrial landscape of Southern Michigan.  He further developed his skills in wood and steel fabrication, and eventually moved away from cast forms.

After graduating from Cranbrook he returned to Pittsburgh where he became involved with a cooperative shop, where he learned cabinet- and furniture-making skills.  He supported himself through painting houses and remodeling.  Gradually he was able to focus his business toward cabinets and furniture.

Scott became active in the local art scene, making sculpture and wall hung pieces which were often generated from geometric mandalas and a visual sense of layering.  Mandalas generally have compass-like directional axes and a sense of depth, or interior.  His sculpture developed into large scale installation pieces.  The rope, pole and stake structures embodied the angularity of his earlier work while zigzagging up a hill side or sitting tranquilly on a lawn.

As his skill in furniture making developed he began to incorporate sculptural ideas into his furniture.  He began a series of bridge forms in laminated wood, which express the regional landscape.Occasionally the curves of Scott’s biomorphic casting began to reappear in ergonomic furniture.  A play of straight and curvilinear form began to emerge in the detailing of moldings, round overs, ogees, and cabrioles.  
As Scott’s business became more concentrated on furniture, he developed a clientele of major firms andcorporations in the Pittsburgh area.   At this time the concept of “art furniture” was an exciting direction in the art world.  Scott successfully exhibited his furniture in many regional art shows.

After twelve years of self-employment Scott accepted the position as Director of the School of Architecture SHOP, which includes a strong teaching component. Initially his teaching centered on the incoming students but soon expanded to include furniture electives and other special classes. He taught the First Year students how to use the shop machines safely and at the same time how to think of the machinery as mark makers whose way of cutting had visual impact.  Scott encouraged students to think of the aesthetic impact of a detail while satisfying the functional and structural demands of the object.

He taught model making classes that produced highly detailed large wood architectural models for three major shows at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.  Several of these models have become a part of the Museum’s permanent collection. Scott also co-taught design build projects for the Silver Eye Center for Photography and the Society of Contemporary Craft.

Scott Smith's teaching has come to include electives on patterned lamination, traditional joinery and furniture-making.  He also developed an intensive furniture making studio. The Architecture Shop is a facility in which students learn the fundamental lessons of fabrication while learning to express form-driven ideas.