A Passion for Beauty: Collecting the Work of Jim Smith

Jim Smith

Dish with Dog and Rabbit, 2006
Nova Scotia earthenware clay, white slip, colourants, glaze

Artist Biography

Jim Smith at work in his studio
Jim Smith at work in his studio Photo credit: Marilyn Smulders, 2014

Ceramic artist Jim Smith has been working out of his seaside studio in Chester, Nova Scotia for 36 years. A graduate of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, he is a recipient of numerous awards and grants, including travel and research grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. He has traveled extensively delving into the ceramic history of China, Mexico, Europe, Morocco, Turkey and most recently culture rich Uzbekistan.

Jim was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and is a recipient of the QE II Commemorative medal awarded by the Canadian Government in recognition of his distinguished career achievement and significant contribution to Canadian society. He was a guest speaker at the Cheongju International Biennale of Fine Craft in South Korea and a juror for the Saidye Bronfman Award, Canada’s foremost distinction for excellence in fine craft.

He has taught workshops across North America and has had his work included in over 100 exhibitions, nationally and internationally. His work consistently appears in ceramic magazines and books with an international focus, and is included in many prestigious public and private collections including Toronto’s Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Museum of History, the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, and The Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China.

Most importantly, Jim’s work has found its way into the lives of thousands of people the world over who cherish interacting with it on a daily basis.

Cordoba Platter, 2015
Nova Scotia earthenware clay, white slip, colourants, glaze

Exhibition Statement

This exhibition displays selected pieces from the collection of Frances Gregor, a private collector of the work of Jim Smith, RCA. The exhibit represents a 25 year retrospective of the artist’s work and includes some of the most significant pieces produced by the artist.

Smith draws cues from historical models that serve as a framework on which to build contemporary ideas regarding function and beauty. Travel research helps to inform his exploration of cross-cultural influences in the development of ceramics. His goal is to provide a well considered contemporary object encoded with historical references that can offer an intellectual, visual, and sensual experience.

The intent of this exhibition is to present the artist’s work from the viewpoint of a committed collector, and to share insights into the process of building a collection of fine craft objects. Frances Gregor shares her vision in this Collector’s Statement …

My first purchase was a two-piece butter dish. I was drawn to its beautiful yellow cover. It was 1993 and, though I didn’t know it, I had taken the first step in building a collection of Smith’s work that, 25 years later, numbers over 100 pieces.

In the following years, I made annual purchases, usually the small serving pieces that Smith made for sale to visitors to Chester. Occasionally I bought pieces of limited production: a pair of tall layered leaf candlesticks in 1999, and a pair of acorn and oak leaf demitasse in 2000.

In 2004, the late Dr. Marie Elwood, decorative arts historian, asked me why I collected Smith’s work. “Because he creates objects of beauty ” I said, “ and, where I can, I want to surround myself with beauty.” Elwood’s question led me to a conscious decision;

I would seek Smith’s guidance and, as funds permitted, purchase what he judged his best work.

My collection illustrates Smith’s evolution as a ceramic artist. I see the development of his technical skill and artistic ability as I scan the collection created across several decades.

Beauty, as I perceive it, governs my purchases across the entire craft domain. But I deliberately choose to support Nova Scotian artisans through the acquisition and use of their work. This is my ‘craft credo’.

Smith continues to produce beautiful and well considered objects as he explores new dimensions of his craft, such as his recent embellishment of clay with metal. And I continue to live surrounded by the beauty I find in his work.

– Frances Gregor

Flower Bricks for Marie Antoinette, 2014
Nova Scotia earthenware clay, white slip, colourants, glaze

3 Candles & A Flower, 2017
Nova Scotia earthenware clay, white slip, colourants, glaze

Titanic Dish, 2012
Nova Scotia earthenware clay, white slip, colourants, glaze

A Passion for Beauty: Collecting the Work of Jim Smith showcases an expansive body of work which belongs to collector Frances Gregor. Jim Smith is a ceramic artist living in Chester, Nova Scotia who has exhibited both nationally and internationally and has been inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. For twenty-five years Frances Gregor has collected Jim’s work filling her home with his elegant pieces with their sumptuous surface designs.

In this exhibition the collected work becomes an encapsulation of artistic evolution, showcasing Jim’s advancement in skills and technique over decades of his practice. Presented by the pair, their collaboration really started with Frances’s keen patronage and Jim’s guidance of her acquisitions over the years. Frances says of his work “I admire how each of Smith’s pieces tells a story, how he engages the history of ceramics and explores new ways to translate his influences into gracious works of art.”

It is the dream of many crafts people to bring joy into the homes of those who own their works. And the support of collectors can bring a sustaining assurance to an artist’s practice. A Passion for Beauty showcases not only a retrospective of one artist’s career but also shines a light on the nature of Jim and Frances’s relationship. Sharing this collection at the Mary E. Black Gallery welcomes the public into Frances’ living space. And it is at home where, for so many of us who love and admire ceramics, the craft truly is meant to reside; meeting its fullest intention through everyday use, bringing everyday joy.


Published ©2019 by the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photography courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.