Profile

Janice Smith
Senior Lecturer

My father was a navy pilot. As a child, I was often a guest aboard those monster seagoing, self-sustaining airports known as aircraft carriers. In the 60s, we did as we were told. As directed, I would appear at ship homecomings wearing a dress identical to that worn by my younger sister, sporting a pageboy haircut, pink socks and black patent leather shoes. I still appreciate the industrial art so evident on an aircraft carrier where everything has a purpose and a place, from the planes to the anchor chain. A woodshop’s space and machinery are dynamic to me and I think the industry of the ships must have informed my desire to design and fabricate something useful. My desire to do as I wished, even if it was not what girls do, probably encouraged my entry into the first offering of “Shop for Girls” when I was a high school junior in 1969. My formal studies culminated when I received an MFA in furniture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1981.

Navy life meant moving a lot and I found it hard work making new friends. A lot of my time was spent alone exploring woods, fields and beaches. I especially loved insects and was attracted to the beauty and surprising natural designs evident in their appearance and function.

My mother, a nurse, showed a knack for solving problems as she moved the family and endured long periods as a single parent. When my father was working in the Navy’s space program before NASA was created, she sewed little suits for the brave rats who flew missions into the stratosphere to test telemetry instruments that would later be used in space suits.

These features of my early life provide the foundations for furniture designs that are unique. The use of curves in my designs originates with my love of insects. I began working with straight lines as a scheme to avoid complexity and reduce the level of difficulty required to create curvaceous pieces of furniture. However, straight lines quickly evolved into acute angles and folds. So my work remains functional and labor intensive, a labor of love. I enjoy going beyond utility and economy to make unique and special pieces of furniture. The curves, angles and folds make my furniture lively. Playing with balance and asymmetry creates a sense of movement.

I enjoy a lot of creative outlets. I design and build furniture for clients or galleries in a shop I share with four other woodworkers. Teaching gives me a chance to pass on what I have learned and to share my enthusiasm for woodworking and design. I teach basic carpentry with Philadelphia’s Youth Violence Reduction Program with the hope that learning practical skills will empower youths on probation and parole to start a new career. My husband and I renovate our house in center city Philadelphia and we have a huge roof garden mostly growing vegetables and fruit.


Class Schedule, Spring 2014

W04:00PM - 06:50PMIntro to Furniture and Wood

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