In a day and age where women are striving to have it all, Motoko Smith is no different. This San Diego based homemaker and part-time woodturner has found a way to blend together her family life and passion to create unique wooden bowls and turnings.
Smith stumbled onto woodworking as she explored creative outlets for herself while maintaing a three child household. “I had just taken a pottery class six months before, and I was enjoying it. Then my husband’s work schedule changed and it conflicted with my pottery class schedule….I still wanted to have a creative outlet so when I searched for a class in my neighborhood that allows me to take it, it was the woodworking class at the local adult school. And I fell in love with working with wood!”
When asked if she thought her gender had affected her experience in woodworking, Smith shares that her experience has been great, “Everyone is extremely nice in this community. Is it because of my gender in the male dominant field? I just think woodworkers are the nicest people anyway!” She also doesn’t think her gender has influenced her work in any way.
Smith’s favorite piece so far is a natural edge Apricot bowl. It came from the stump of a tree a man was giving away for free on Craigslist. “I didn’t know when I picked up the stump, but he was selling the house where he had the Apricot tree. When I contacted him again to give him one of the bowls I made from the stump, he was so happy and he shared stories about the tree. He told me that he was sad to see the stump go, but now he is happy that he can take a part of the stump (the bowl) to wherever he gets settled after selling the house. And that made me really happy and proud of the bowl.”
Like most turners and woodworkers, Smith’s design process revolves around the piece of wood she’s selected. “I have my favorite shapes she it comes to bowls; they are simple. Then I look at wood and decide what’s possible with the characteristics I observe: grain direction, natural edge, end grain or long grain, spalted wood and etc.”
Smith is also making her way in writing about the craft. “I’m writing columns for a Japanese DIY/Woodworking about my Woodworking-related learning experiences in states. I’ve never thought my writing gets published because it’s not my thing even in my mother language. So I’m grateful for this opportunity. “
When it comes to the future of women in the field, Smith shares “I would love to see a woman woodworker to be legendary like Maloof, Nakashima….And I hope that inspires next generations to come.”
You can view more of Smith’s work on her Instagram account @leointhewoods or at her website motokosmith.com