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What did Carol and Larry’s friends and family, many of whom come to visit and stay in one of two guest rooms or the lower-level apartment, say when they walked into this modern mountain home? “It didn’t seem to come to mind that it was unusual for a mountain town,” says Carol, “until they saw the trees. But everyone who worked on it was so excited about their piece of the puzzle because they don’t have the opportunity to do something like this very often around here. At the end we had a big party for everyone.”
Steve Smith’s ‘Functional Art’
When it comes to traditional Southwest artisans, northern Arizona has some of the best, particularly in furniture design. But not everyone living in Red Rock Country wants to decorate their homes with knotty pine tables, nor is everyone working here inspired by the red rocks in the same way, and that includes artist Steve Smith. Steve’s fluid steel chair, “functional art” as he calls it, adorns the cover of this issue and though it might be upholstered in a zebra pattern rather than a Navajo rug design, we still think it’s a reflection of our surroundings, albeit on a more abstract level. So does Steve. “I don’t see my work as being at odds with the red rock environment,” he says. “I come from an area of the country with plenty of iron/ore mines and iron comes from the earth – it’s not flown in from Jupiter. I take hard steel and give it soft turns. I respect the heritage in this part of the country but we progress – we’re modern men.”
Steve moved to Sedona from rural Missouri in 1997 with his wife and opened Smith Signs, crafting high-end metal signs for local business owners. He’s been an artist most of his life, thanks to the influence of his grandmother, who was a painter. Less than two years ago a local homeowner approached Steve about making a few pieces of steel furniture for her home after seeing the steel vanities he’d crafted for his wife’s hair salon.
“I’ve basically wanted to build furniture my entire life,” says Steve. “I just never found my niche with wood. But now
I’m marrying my past experience with steel and [building custom] cars to create this unique furniture.”
Steve created tables and a computer desk for his first client; since then he’s crafted hall trees, art screens, vanities, a fireplace treatment, range hood, console table, martini table, mirrors, shelving, and – perhaps the most eye-catching – chairs using crushed velvet, funky animal prints, or acrylic painted canvases as upholstery. All his pieces are one-of-a-kind and created from steel – he grinds the surface to create wave patterns that play off ambient lighting or he’ll heat the surface of the steel for an abalone-like finish (another throwback to his automotive days – Steve says it wasn’t uncommon to mix crushed abalone shells in with car paint for depth and a custom look).
Steve, who has a degree in design technology, has spent most of his life focusing on his painting – he works in oils, acrylics and watercolors – and bronze sculpture in addition to his sign work. Those who like to take walks in West Sedona might also recognize Steve’s name as the artist who created “Watchful Eyes,” the steel coyote sculpture commissioned by the City of Sedona residing in the center of the Arroyo Piñon Botanical Gardens on the corner of Arroyo Piñon and Hwy 89A.
While Steve says he might eventually incorporate wood or stone into his furniture, he reminds people that Sedona isn’t just about cowboys and Indians but also a rich heritage in all genres of art. In that sense, he says, his furniture is very much in harmony with his surroundings. “I build you a piece of sculpture and then give you a place to sit.”
Steve Smith 928-203-9113; www.stevesmithfineart.com
MORE SEDONA HOMES AND REAL ESTATE: 2005 Art and Architecture Tour, local wine cellars, contemporary home design, 2006 Art and Architecture Tour, new home construction, real estate values, artisan-made furniture, artists’ homes