I was born in 1959, in a woodsy place north of Seattle. My early visual impressions include drawings of buildings on my father’s desk, skeletal frames of buildings under construction, Native American Art on the walls, and trees against the sky.
I’m told that as a child I whittled everything within reach, soap, flour, butter on the table. In high-school I started carving wood in earnest. I did my degree at the University of Washington, where I studied sculpture, bronze casting, welding, and Northwest Coast Native art.
Enamored with the abstract form. Initially very inspired by architectural sketches on his father's table.
In 1984 I fell in love with carving river stone, while living in the Olympic Mountains. This prompted me, in 1989, to create a studio in the woods, on top of a little mountain on the Island of San Juan..
Stoniness – Allowing The Stone to be Stone
“You can carve a stone and polish it to look like metal or plastic. You can shape it into un-stone-like fantastical fluidity. I delight in seeing such things; they can evoke the surprise and magic and charm of alchemy, but I’m looking for something else in my own work. I look for them in – the way to leave marks that speak of the age and history of the rock. A stones’ skin and shape tell thousand-year-old stories of rivers, glaciers, snow, ice and sun. It is for me, to walk the line between reverence and potential.”
“If I look long enough, small natural things tell me all the properties of the universe. Hold a feather, leaf or pebble and wait. Follow its creation back into time. The story of one tiny thing becomes infinity vast.”
How does light move through stone? I try to push past stone’s identity as gravity-bound. Can flight or movement be suggested? Can architectural forms be invested with living skin and bone.
I’m intrigued by the ways in which human art, architecture, and design resonate with natural influences. One of my favorite resources is a very old Douglas Fir living on the land I occupy. When I lie on the ground and look up, it provides infinite intersections of line. Light presses in as its own entity. We don’t say, “That branch is in the wrong place.” The tree prompts me to ask myself, how can I achieve that integrity and excitement in my art?
Quotes Tom Small’s book – Stories in Stone and Light
"If my pieces had a theme, it might be about the movement of energy from earth and stone into sky and stars. Our Earth is mostly stone, centering gravity in our feet. Our bodies reach skywards and our heads are in the stars.
Our arms reach out like branches seeking sunlight. As my pieces rise they open up to the light through glass and windows that invite setting suns. I love to walk in the last hours of daylight and watch light change in the infinite shifting patterns of tree branch cathedrals. I often come to a meadow of deep moss and lie down to watch the cloud paintings light with fire and then move into night. "
Just uploaded to You Tube, the installation of the basalt & steel piece, Moon Catcher at the gallery for Tom's show. Slideshow
View Artwork by Tom Small in Person
Come see these pieces first hand. We are just a short walk from the ferry and an excellent destination for your visit to San Juan Island.