David Smith at Addicks Reservoir, Houston, Texas, December 2013.
Like a lot of people, I used to toil at a mundane, dead-end office job. I worked for ten years as a proofreader in the Book Division of Gulf Publishing Company, and later as an editor in the Composing Room at the Houston Chronicle. I was never happy in the stifling 9 to 5 environment. In 2001, a series of odd coincidences, perhaps fate, led me to discover that I had some artistic talent.
I never had a single art lesson or any previous art experience. One day I started playing around with some scrap copper and found that I had this weird, instant ability to sculpt using what I now know is called the repousse technique. I have often heard stories about gifted people who, for example, with no previous experience, could sit down at a piano and play beautiful music. I always thought those stories were exaggerated but now I understand they are true because that is exactly what happened to me. Sculpting with the repousse technique had a natural and easy feel to it, as if it were something I had always done.
My first weathervane was a dragon and it turned out so well that a friend encouraged me to try to sell it. I had no confidence in myself and told my friend that it would not sell. After much persistence on her part, I told my friend that I would list the item for sale on eBay just to prove her wrong. I was stunned when it not only sold but I had a dozen people asking me to make weathervanes for them. That dragon went to a buyer in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and it was the beginning of my career as a full-time weathervane sculptor. Someday I would like to go to Hopkinton and see that precious dragon blowing on the steel breeze and basking in the golden light of late afternoon sun.
Weathervane sculpture is a lost art and I quickly found a niche; over time I developed a faithful clientele of art collectors/patrons, architects, home builders, galleries, etc., who have continually supported me for years. It still amazes me that people are willing to buy anything that I make.
People often say to me, "I wish I could discover some hidden talent like you did." I believe everyone has artistic talent, but few people ever learn to tap into it. For me it was a serendipitous discovery: I didn't choose art, it chose me. That, and the fact that I spent literally thousands of hours' time studying classical art--mostly from the Baroque Era--plus a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Never be afraid to follow your dreams--anything is possible.
My weathervanes have been featured on the Discovery Channel's Monster House series; on PBS's Antiques Roadshow; in the Tesla Science Center and Museum at Wardenclyffe; in the Wall Street Journal; the Houston Chronicle; on the long-running television program The Texas Country Reporter; a cover/feature story in Fort Bend Focus Magazine; selected as a Featured Architectural Project by Copper Development Association; and most recently my painting, "Tropical Storm, Veracruz, Gulf of Mexico," was selected as a finalist for the 2014 Hunting Art Prize, and featured in Hunting PLC International Oil Services Company's 2014 Annual Report. Additionally, I was one of the first artists to be designated a "Texas Original" by The Texas Commission on the Arts.
Notable commissions include weathervanes for the historic Victorian home of Heinz Ketchup CFO Paul Renne (Pittsburgh, PA); weathervane sculptures for PBS's Antiques Roadshow producer Robert Marshall (Boston, MA), and Larry Levinson Productions (Los Angeles, CA).
My weathervanes are punishing the wind in 45 states in the U.S., as well as in seven foreign countries. And the wind cries. . .Mary
--David Smith, Sculptor
Sugar Land, Texas
Above: Detailing copper. Making copper weathervanes is like alchemy, in that there is a division of the work into practical effort and visionary reward. Photo by Frank Casimiro.
Below: David Smith with a large dragon weathervane.
"Self Portrait -- The Vane Maker." Copper relief with verdigris patina (2003).
Designated a Texas Original by The Texas Commission on the Arts
Description text and images Copyright © 2001-2015 David Smith