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Fishing for art business

By: Ben Furtado, Journal photo editor
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In Downtown Auburn, tucked behind Community First Bank on Lincoln Way, local artist, J. Randall Smith has moved his studio into a historical building. Once the Auburn Lumber Company, the building was owned and operated by Edwin Robie, father of Wendell Robie back in 1900. Smith has expanded his artwork from smaller clay masterpieces to larger multiple bronze pieces, some of which will measure 12 feet high. “I moved here because the pieces that I’m doing now require high ceilings and more space, plus I think it’s cool to be here knowing the Robies once owned this,” Smith said. “My old studio on High Street was getting less foot traffic because of the economy, but during this time I have landed commissions which require me to create larger pieces for bigger clients, which will be displayed primarily outside allowing the bigger works of art.” Some of Smith’s neighbors are impressed with his artwork. “I think his stuff is interesting and nice. It’s good,” said Steve Galyardt, Community First Bank vice president manager. “He’s got his own flair. That’s cool.” When asked how an artist survives during these uncertain times, Smith offered his idea. “I realize I have to be more creative in what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m stepping away from my kraku style of art and experimenting with bronze and high-end resins, which can duplicate the look of any stone or clay. The final piece is actually lighter and I have more control over the final product.” After 30 years as a graphic designer, Smith decided to pursue a full-time career as an artist and later found his love in sculpting after taking a class from Larry Ortiz at the Arts Building. He then found a niche in his kraku work starting in the basement of the Arts Building, and later expanded his studio and gallery to his home residence on High Street. Today he sculpts clay in a warehouse where lumber was once delivered by railroad, stored and milled by the Robie family over 100 years ago. “I have chosen art as my full-time business, so I have to treat it as such. I love the fact I make a living through my art, but in the end it’s still a business,” he said. For more information about J. Randall Smith’s work go to jrandallsmith.com.