Russell Strawn Smith
Based in Smithville, Texas
Russell Strawn Smith has been immersed in art his entire life. His paternal grandmother taught him to draw with pastels at an early age and he loved it so much it was all he wanted to do if he couldn’t be a horse. Once he was old enough, his parents would drop him off at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin, leaving him there alone for hours to draw. He knew all the guards by name and spent every moment he was allowed to in making pen and ink drawings of the taxidermied birds and mammals. He was 11 at the time. By the ripe old age of 12 Russell had been introduced to jewelry making through a program for children at UT Austin and he has never looked back. He spent many happy days making art and pretending to be a horse while he ran the bases at little league.
Later, while studying engineering and art metals at the University of Texas, Russell supported himself carving relief sculptures in limestone with his friend, Ralph Verrall, a retired Cold War era spy. After college, Russell worked with Midas Manufacturing in Austin. There he began to establish his reputation among Austin area goldsmiths and discovered his lasting affinity for creating custom work in gold. In 1980, Russell started his own business, doing casting and mold making for other jewelers and custom wedding rings for people in love.
In 1994 Russell was enlisted to help launch the jewelry program in the Art Metals department of Austin Community College and he taught there for 5 years. His own artistic development has continued with workshops under Phillip Trussell, Stanley Young, Thomas Hermann, and. especially through the intimate shared vision with his wife, artist Barbara Samuelson, who he married in 1998. Russell’s current body of work includes a series of botanical pendants and rings in silver and gold. Carving these diminutive articulated sculptures allows him to create natural forms that are both permanent and intimate. In each piece he tries to express the individuality of a plant form that has inspired him.
In 2011 Russell worked with Deep in the Heart Art Foundry in Bastrop to complete a public memorial sculpture for the Smithville Railroad Museum. It is a beautiful rendition of a Scissortail Flycatcher atop an historical piece of steel and along with an elaborate narrative base. Besides his own immensely creative body of work Russell has created special custom rings for many Austin musicians including Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Michael Ramos, Walter Hyatt, Darden Smith and Olivier Giraud. One of his favorite endeavors is working with couples to create wedding rings that tell their own unique story.
Russell lives in Smithville with his wife Barbara, his dogs, and finally a horse of his own, Primo.