By Matthew Dunn, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Lee Smith of Grafton has been an artist all of her life, and amidst a global pandemic and widespread future uncertainties, she finds solace in her spinning pottery wheel.
“It can be hard to be creative when your mind is worried,” she explained. “But there have been some bright spots too and I realize how lucky I am to have my craft to distract me,” adding that her humble home studio turns into a refuge when the days start to blend together.
Growing up in Acton, Smith took an interest to art from an early age and felt confident it would be part of her future. Upon graduating high school Smith enrolled at Mount Ida College as a graphic design major, but it was a semester spent in a ceramics studio that unearthed Lee’s favorite artistic medium. After college, Smith set out to launch her career in design, and with many twists and turns, never let go of her passion for ceramics and pottery.
“After graduation I worked as a cartographer and in advertising and eventually ended up at Digital Equipment doing graphics for sales reporting,” she said.” I stayed home to be a full-time mom in the late ‘80s and found when I was ready to go back to work the graphic design world had gone digital and my skills were no longer relevant. In order to stay home with my own kids, I decided to open a home daycare and for the next 20-plus years I was home doing arts and crafts and caring for children in Shrewsbury.”
In 2011 Smith was able to join a small local pottery studio, and gain access to a pottery wheel, kiln, and all of the supplies needed for her to engage in her passion. However, the studio closed shortly thereafter, and Smith saw an opportunity to create her own workshop.
“When that studio closed and liquidated, I bought a wheel and eventually a kiln and started to slowly set up my own studio space,” Smith said.
This move led to the creation of her home-based studio, NaturaLee Designed Pottery.
“[The] name came from my love of incorporating nature in my work,” Smith explained. “Whether I’m using leaves to create dishes, making pots to hold plants or pieces to decorate my gardens outside I’m always trying to pull nature into my work.”
She also incorporates antique lace impressions in her work, creating bowls and other functional ware with the lace patterns.
“I love looking for interesting pieces of lace when I’m out antiquing,” she said.
Smith’s work speaks for itself – a combination of intricate aesthetics and textures, natural elements and functionality ranging from whimsical creations, such as a line of pet-themed bowls, to elegant trays incorporating some of her signature glazes and patterns.
“This is perhaps my favorite time in the studio, when I’m left to my own devices and can just create, making decisions as I go along to add flowers here and a chimney or window there,” she noted. “Six months from now I could be creating something completely different – that’s the wonderful part of this.”
Smith is part of a growing number of local artisans who are expanding their hobbies and artistic endeavors to share their creations within their communities.
“We live in a wonderful area with so much talent and creativity. I’ve met such a diverse variety of artists, artisans, craftsmen and other small business owners and it’s a joy to share ideas and support each other,” Smith said.
And in these difficult times, the sharing of ideas and support between fellow artists and small business owners is just as important as the unique paintings, jewelry and pottery they produce.