Richmond Art Center Richmond Art Center

Karen Smith, Metal Artist

Karen Smith, Metal Artist

About: I design, fabricate and custom-make wearable art and small sculpture in my studio in Oakland, CA. My primary mediums are sterling and fine silver; I also work with 14K and 18K white and yellow gold., primarily sterling silver (and sometimes 14k gold elements to my designs) and often add high quality gemstones. My methods include, but are not limited to fold forming, forging, soldering, stone setting and more.

I am a self-taught artist though I recently had a short study with a master goldsmith in Dakar, Senegal; I am also an arts educator and have created a program to teach this artistry/vocation to young women and girls of African descent who might not otherwise have access or opportunity. I was inspired my time in West Africa and the isolation of being the only woman metalsmith around, and by the incredulous faces of girls and women who would look, awestruck, at me as I worked. The program, We Wield the Hammer, debuted in 2019 in Oakland and is headed to Dakar, where the saying goes “women don’t wield the hammer”.

I work with hammers and fire and files and saws; living and working as an artist is the best job I’ve ever had. My work, like my life, can be minimalist or maximalist; elements of my Buddhist practice can be seen in my ZenSpin ring; as well, my cultural heritage as African-American in informs mud cloth inspired pieces and masks that I create. My work is informed and infused by my woman-self, my black-self, my Buddhist self, my aging self. I express gratitude and joy through my work; and most importantly, I imbue the work with the spirits of women who were never able to “wield the hammer”. I make circles and curves and textures that represent the power and light and the feminine.

I am a black woman artist.


More info: Instagram: @karen_smithmetalartist

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Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804-1600


Contact and Visitor Info
Gallery Hours: Wed-Sat 10am-4pm