June Artisan of the Month: Folk Artist Peter Smith

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I love folk art - and in our neighborhood, there is a lot of it, courtesy of a local artist. Peter Smith grew up on our lake, and has a shop here on the lake, too. His art adorns many of the houses and yards on the lake, and he is represented in galleries across Michigan. If you were to take a walk down our street, you'd see quite a bit of his art! He's quite an interesting man, and a perfect choice for our May Artisan of the Month. I sat down with Peter, in his hand-made adirondack chairs (mine was decorated with a loon), and had a lovely conversation. Come join in!

Peter Smith




WE: Tell us about your art...

PS: My art is folk art, it is from the local plants and animals in the area, with a Native American motif. It deals with the spiritiual, whimsical side of nature - it is quite fun.



vasecorner cabinet




WE: Where do get your materials?

PS: Most of the materials come from old chicken coops, granary buildings, etc. A lot of the wood is from trees that were cut 150-200 years ago, in the area - virgin white pine, mostly soft woods. The virgin white pine was cut about 200 years ago, and a lot of the barns, clapboard houses, chicken coops, etc. were made of that. Most of it is now deteriorating and the barns are being lost. A lot of the time, someone is remodeling an old house and throws out the boards, and i am recycyling them into artistic things.




long house bird house





WE: What do you enjoy most?

PS: I enjoy the wood. I work in porcelain, stone, alabaster, and clay, but I prefer the wood. They are my favorite - they are more functional type items, that people can use for their garden sculptures...hanging up, putting outside. I use oil pigments, they are hand painted, brushwork, and most of it is oil based and turpentine stains. Basically,there are washes on the old virgin white pines - it has a wonderful color when it is finished - a gold honey color that makes such a nice warm look, has an earthy look to it.


canoe bench


shop inside


WE: Where do you get your inspiration?

PS: From nature, from being out in nature, and growing up in nature, loving the wild creatures. It is a flattering thing to try to catch an essence of their existence, like frogs, turtles, and fish, in their natural habitat. I like the virgin white pine because they all have a story of the creatures that lived here 200 years ago. There is a story in the wood.


fish bench


screenfew fish front



WE: Tell us about your vases...

PS: A lot of them are made of porcelain, high fired. Some are white stoneware. But many are slab rolled. I do throw on the potter's wheel, but I prefer to do slab work with relief designs on them. I put a little more floral type stuff on the vases, along with the trout, lake designs,and different fish.


fish on table


fish vase closeupdeer vase closeup


PS: I grew up on a lake, lived in nature, and was always near lakes and streams and enjoyed what nature has to offer in this area. I love to share this.

My art is more of a folk art, from a local habitat...local creations. I have traveled around the world, but most of my folk art is locally-based, in terms of materials, inspiration, and design.

The whole theme of folk art is for people to have something that is handmade from materials in their area. The wood items, I get from in the woods, and in the old buildings, and I collect from nature, sticks and shells and stones, and use them in my art.


inside store



WE: Why buy this art?

PS: It is fun. It is carefree, it is a lodge look, casual lake living type thing. The frogs and turtles and fish are things that people love to see. They are whimsical and enchanting, functional pieces that can be used for a number of different things. If they are kept varnished, they can be kept outside in the summer, and some can be left out all winter. People like to smile when they see some of these things.


fish outside


WE: Tell me about yourself and your beliefs in art...

PS: I also do high art, more intellectual, and that is fun as well.
With art, you can express yourself and say a lot without offending anyone, because it doesn't affect people, like statements do, because you can actually see it.

I think art should be something that makes people feel good. Art should not make people feel bad, emotion-wise. It should make you think, but it should mostly make you feel good, you should have a good sense of feeling when you look at it. Like a wonderful gourmet meal, you want the whole ambiance... and art and galleries should be that way, too. All art is personal.


catfish closeup



What we have shown here is only a small representative of the body of Peter's work - it is incredible, the range of art that he creates.
To purchase Peter's Michigan Great Lakes lodge-look, one of a kind, hand-made art, please email us.



Comments (1)

  • Carol Voigts

    14 years 6 months ago

    Carol Voigts --RETIRED!!! 

    what wonderful things.  I live in the Manistee National Forest and love these pieces you are creating.  I will have to come down and visit your gallery.  There are many stumps still in the forest that were from the lumbering era.  They were sure some trees, and I'm sorry I never got to see some of those beauties.  Your porcelain creations look intriguing too.

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