An Interview with Stephan J. Smith

Stephan J. Smith is the artist behind Artsmith Craftworks, creates hand made airship models to decorate Steampunk homes and other beautiful works from paper and papier-mâché. I got the opportunity to pull him away from he preparations for the World Steam Expo to tell me a bit about his art.

How did you learn to craft your art?
I’ve been an artist at heart since I was a little kid, but I started formally as a graphic designer – went to Ferris State University in Michigan. Even though that was mainly related to advertising and marketing, I always loved the fine art field as well and have always been fascinated by paper.

How did you decide to craft model airships?
I was commissioned by an interior designer friend of mine, (Betsy Rackliffe), to construct one for a Steampunk bookstore, (Off the Beaten Path), she was designing the interior for. There was such a terrific response and interest that it was suggested that I do others and offer them for sale.

Tell me a bit about Artsmith Craftworks.
Artsmith Craftworks is the name I chose that both reflected my name and the “craft” of art that I do. As I mentioned, I love paper, so anything that involves paper interests me. I like cut paper sculpture, papier mache, hand-cast paper from recycled pulp, and many other paper media. I DO also have a great affinity for mosaic. Ceramic, glass, stone and even paper mosaic…such a beautiful art form! So I guess that’s what Artsmith Craftworks is about.

Tell me more about the importance you place on recycled and repurposed materials.
Well, my own personal “mission” is to create art using something that would have gotten thrown away otherwise. Like I said before, I like making hand-cast sheets of paper using old scrap that I have pulped, thereby making something beautiful and useful out of it again. Papier mache allows me to use scrap paper to built things with “junk” paper. I often do cut paper sculptures using scrap paper company swatch books. I use bottle lids, random plastic pieces, cut foam, wooden dowels, paper and plastic tubes, etc., and I cut them, paint them and they become something else. Most of the mosaics I do use broken tile or glass that was garbage bound and I do scrap paper mosaics as well. It just feels good to do something cool with discarded materials that would have gone into a landfill otherwise.

Recycled Tinkertoys form parts ofan airship's propellers

Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell people about?
I plan to be at the World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan on Memorial Day weekend. I’ll have a couple new large airships as well as some Do-It-Yourself little airship kits. In fact, the plan is that I’ll be running a couple panels showing people how to construct the little airships with the kits I put together. True to form, these kits are made with recycled/repurposed materials! I’ve also been contacted by an independent filmaker who wants me to build an airship for a Steampunk film he’s currently working on. The airship will be shot against green screen with background dropped in during post production…very exciting stuff!

What is your favorite and least favorite medium/material with which to work? Why?
Of course, paper is my favorite and I like tile & stone in mosaic too. I think paper represents something renewable, very earthy and natural and is a very flexible and forgiving medium to work with. I don’t think I have a least favorite. I’ve worked with a lot of different materials, some not my favorites, but none that I dislike really.

What does Steampunk mean to you?
To me, Steampunk represents an exciting age when the possibilities of new materials, energies and knowledge were being discovered and utilized. To us, it represents an age of whimsical innocence, seemingly free of the hustle and bustle of modern life, but brimming with its own gadgets and wonder.

Visit the Showcase Gallery

Where can people purchase your art?
Currently, my blog has a page with pieces for sale, but they are sparse at this point as I prepare for World Steam. I plan to have an Etsy store in the not-too-distant future.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Only that I appreciate the warm welcome and reception that I’ve gotten from the Steampunk community. Everyone has been very complimentary and excited when they’ve seen my pieces. And, Audelia, I’d like to invite you and anyone you’re connected with to visit my blog and have a look around and feel free to comment. I’d also like to thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed on your blog!


Airships in dry dock

To learn more about Artsmith Craftworks and stay up to date on all of Stephan’s latest activities, please be sure to drop by his website and like him on Facebook!

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