Sea creatures get their moment in the sun in the hands of this Nottingham artisan.
Matthew Smith was a very good commercial fisherman, but in the end, he decided that was very bad. After a world tour to study fishing techniques he made a sea change in his life. “Visiting a variety of countries and studying their approach to fishing was like time travel, seeing some more advanced than others. Finally, in Japan, the most advanced, I came to the realization there was no fair fight left and I began to start rooting for the fish. I realized I was hunting and killing what I truly loved.”
A printmaker for the past 20 years, Smith’s images of sea life, great and small, are foremost a product of his hands “wrestling” with the process. As he says, “You can’t fake the honesty of something done by hand.”
His latest pieces involve double printing with the same engraved copper plate. The first impression may be blue and the second red, but with the different viscosities of ink, a bit of magic happens. Suddenly the octopus is enlivened with rich swirls of color that a real octopus would feel comfortable wearing.
If images of octopus and sea urchins don’t touch your heart, Smith is working on “cuter” creatures that are printed directly on organic cotton T-shirts for adults and onesies for babies. “When I see a child cherishing his hand-printed sea turtle, I know I have reached a new generation of collectors.”
Smith’s work can be found at New Hampshire League of Craftsmen shops and at his own gallery, The Copper Canoe in Exeter.
This article appears in the March 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine