John Smith-Jones


Vessel as Metaphor

As an artist working in metal the main area of my work is exploring the form of small raised vessels often with gold leaf interiors. Each vessel serves as a metaphor for the body and spirit, a visual manifestation of internal and external life forces, addressing the tensions that define us as imperfect beings. During the process of hammering, fine cracks often develop or are intentionally cut into the rim; these are filled with silver solder and worked further. I choose to emphasize the marks, not cover them – for they reference our experiences – fissures within the natural landscape – or perhaps cracks in our personal armor.

The main impetus in my practice has been the exploration of new techniques and new materials – yet I am employed in an ancient craft utilizing age old resources – copper, silver, gold – materials extracted from the earth. For many years I worked as a geologist in the oil and gas industry, this training underpins my experience of the world and the creation of my art. Just as the land shows evidence of change and our bodies reflect our lived experiences, evidence of process is integral to the work. The hammer marks provide not only an interesting texture but also indications of the history of vessel making and the experience of making this particular vessel.

Beginning in 2008 I have begun a new series of vessels that are an extension of my practice – these are made from discarded metal objects from second hand stores or given to me by friends or clients. In an era that recognizes the high costs associated with mining it seems timely to give new form to these discarded domestic objects. As a craftsman, my process allows me the time to consider the intrinsic history of the work even as I re-construct vessels made from these found objects. Thus, as I raise each vessel, I am conscious of its distinctive history - for the worn surfaces, faded engravings, and manufacturing marks speak of a resplendent past and also of their inevitable fall from favor. They are the physical manifestation of an era marked by consumption and their present circumstances a reflection of our self-reflective age. In their new form they encourage the viewer to think about the environmental costs embedded within the objects we buy and encourage us to reconsider our notions of disposability and environmental responsibility.

My art practice continues to embraces the creation of objects that are beautiful and intriguing and which draw the viewer in. The vessels embody an experience of reality that is both familiar and foreign – they are indeed metaphors for existence.


John has had many careers in his life, including working on the railroad, working as a mudman in the drilling industry, and as an oil and gas geologist. John worked for many years in the oil and gas business in Alberta and in Indonesia and Argentina. The training and experience in geology act as a filter of his view of the world. He is fascinated with natural patterns in the world, especially in the earth and in rock and minerals.

John graduated from Alberta College of Art & Design in 2008 in the Jewellery and Metals program. His practice is mainly in making raised metal vessels; exploring form, surface, and colour.

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